Jailed localist figurehead Edward Leung has received the High Court’s approval to withdraw his election petition over the 2016 Legislative Council election, meaning he will no longer contest the government’s decision to bar him from running.

Leung’s lawyer said on Thursday that the issue in the petition has already been addressed in a similar court case involving pro-independence activist Andy Chan. The court had previously ruled in Chan’s case that a returning officer has the power to disqualify a candidate running in an election.

Edward Leung. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/VOA/Iris Tong.

In 2016, an electoral official disqualified Leung from the race after finding that he was in favour of Hong Kong independence. The Electoral Affairs Commission had introduced an additional form for candidates to sign, which stated that they would uphold the Basic Law.

Leung was asked by the official at the time whether he still supported Hong Kong independence, to which Leung said the answer was a “resounding no.” However, Leung’s statement was taken to be not credible and he was banned accordingly.

Leung submitted the election petition to challenge the decision in October 2016.

Edward Leung Tin-kei. Photo: Chantal Yuen/HKFP.

On Thursday, Leung’s lawyer also said that the petition had outlasted the election cycle, and the court may not be able to reach a ruling before the 2020 Legislative Council election comes along.

Leung is now serving a six-year jail term for his involvement in the 2016 Mong Kok unrest. The clashes took place during the first two days of the Lunar New Year, and were triggered by the authorities’ attempts to clear street hawkers, which later escalated into a violent clash between police and protesters.

HKNP ban uncontested

Separately, the founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) Andy Chan told the media on Wednesday that he would not be appealing the government’s ban on his party.

The Hong Kong government banned HKNP last September, making it the first organisation to be banned under the Societies Ordinance since the 1997 handover. Chan and HKNP former spokesperson Jason Chow tried to reverse the ban, but the chief executive and her cabinet rejected their appeal in February.

Andy Chan Ho-tin. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

Chan had the option of further appealing the ban by resorting to the courts, but he confirmed to Stand News that he would not make such a move.

“Everyone knows the judicial system cannot bring justice,” he said, adding that prohibitive legal costs were also a concern: “No matter if [I] win or lose, the two sides will definitely take the case to the Court of Final Appeal.”

Chan added that the HKNP ban was a political issue instead of a legal one, and by giving up on his appeal he did not mean to concede that the government was correct.

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Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.