Former lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung has applied for a judicial review against the president of the Legislative Council for accepting a debate on a controversial change to the house rules. Leung argued that the debate was unconstitutional.

The Legislative Council last week passed controversial changes to its house rules. Changes to the Rules of Procedure were proposed mostly by the pro-Beijing camp in order to curb filibustering by democrats. Leung was disqualified from the legislature after the government took legal action.

Among the changes was an amendment that reduces the quorum needed for the “committee of the whole council” stage of general meetings from 35 to 20.

"Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung. Photo: Inmedia.

The LegCo in 2014 sought legal advice from Senior Counsel Ambrose Ho and Queen’s Counsel Lord Lester. Both said the committee of the whole council must follow the quorum requirement.

Leung’s application form said that it was “highly improper” for the LegCo to act contrary to two sets of independent legal advice.

Concerns have been raised that the change relating to the quorum may be unconstitutional. Under Article 75 of the Basic Law, “The quorum for the meeting of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be not less than one half of all its members,” which is now 35.

The committee of the whole council stage takes place after the second reading of a bill is passed. Since lawmakers can raise unlimited amendments and speak repeatedly during this stage, it has been used as a tool for filibustering over the years. It is unlikely that the democrats will be able to call for headcounts, since the pro-Beijing camp has 40 members.

Legal actions

The pro-democracy camp earlier discussed whether it is necessary for a lawmaker to file a judicial review, according to lawmaker Eddie Chu.

Kwok Cheuk-kin
Kwok Cheuk-kin. Photo: In-media.

Chu cited sources as telling him that the pro-establishment camp is not afraid of losing the suit, as they could still apply to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to interpret the law in that event. However, he said that a judicial review should still be filed so that the courts can review the issue.

On Monday, Cheung Chau resident Kwok Cheuk-kin – known as the “king of judicial review” for the number of lawsuits he lodged  – also filed a judicial review against the rule amendment on the required quorum.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.