A Cheung Chau resident may go bankrupt after the High Court declined to hear his judicial review challenge over the validity of the oath taken by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Retired civil servant Kwok Cheuk-kin, 78, told HKFP that he expects to be asked for around HK$3 million in legal costs. “I am not worried about bankruptcy because I am alone and have no burden,” he said. “It won’t stop me challenging the government in court in the future.”

kwok cheuk-kin
Kwok Cheuk-kin. Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

Wednesday’s decision came after Kwok took Leung to court last year following the government’s unprecedented move to challenge the oaths of two localist lawmakers and Beijing’s intervention in the legislature’s oath row.

After Leung and the Department of Justice sought to unseat the lawmakers, footage resurfaced of Leung omitting the phrase “Hong Kong” during his oath-taking for the position of chief executive in 2012.

Kwok then asked the court to declare that Leung’s oath was inaccurate and that he should retake the pledge of allegiance. He told HKFP earlier that he and his lawyers did not ask for Leung to be disqualified because they believed it would be unlikely that the court would oust the chief executive.

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‘Little impact’

On Wednesday, Judge Thomas Au Hing-cheung rejected Kwok’s request on the basis that his application suffered from undue delay – four years and four months since Leung was sworn in.

During the leave hearing, Kwok agreed with the government’s case that the omission by the chief executive was unintentional, as opposed to a deliberate act of declining to take the oath. He suggested that Leung retake the oath as a solution.

On this basis, the judge held that the outcome would not differ whether or not he allowed the judicial review case to proceed. He added that the case would have little impact as Leung is set to leave office in June.

The judge ordered Kwok to pay the respondent’s legal costs, including the fees of two barristers acting for the government.

“The Hong Kong government acts like the Singaporean one in trying to prevent people from pursuing judicial reviews by imposing heavy financial consequences on them,” he said. “But I won’t be deterred.”

“Since young people don’t come forward to challenge the government in the courtroom, I will do it,” he added. “I must seek to restore justice without abusing the court process.”

Kwok Cheuk-kin.
Kwok Cheuk-kin. Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

Kwok said he would appeal against the decision, with which he was “strongly dissatisfied,” on the basis that Judge Au avoided adjudicating on whether Leung should rectify his mistake even if it was unintentional.

He said he had no plan to seek public donations to help cover the costs.

See also: Lone fighter: Meet the Cheung Chau resident who has spent a decade battling the Hong Kong gov’t in court

Kwok told HKFP earlier that he had only won once out of at least 20 judicial review cases he had filed against the government in the past decade. He was able to avoid going bankrupt by applying for legal aid for most of the applications. But he did not ask for legal aid when seeking to challenge Leung’s oath at short notice.

Kwok earned the nickname of “king of judicial review” for his judicial activism, but critics have argued that Kwok abused the judicial review system and wasted public money.

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Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.