Ousted Hong Kong pro-democracy legislator Lau Siu-lai challenged an electoral officer’s decision to bar her from running in the 2018 Legislative Council Kowloon West by-election last Thursday.
In October 2018, Returning Officer Franco Kwok Wai-fun said Lau’s by-election nomination was invalid, arguing that she had backed calls for self-determination and thus would not genuinely uphold the Basic Law.
Lau had hoped to salvage her seat in the legislature, after being stripped of her status in 2017 following a row over protests she staged during her oath-taking. Five other opposition legislators were also disqualified. The controversy later led to Beijing “interpreting” Article 104 of the Basic Law, which requires lawmakers to swear allegiance to the HKSAR solemnly.
During the High Court hearing last Thursday, Lau’s counsel Paul Shieh argued that a person’s political standpoint was subject to change, but the returning officer never enquired as to whether Lau’s stance had evolved. Shieh also cited another ousted legislator Edward Yiu, who was allowed to enter the by-election after clarifying his stance with the officer.
Justice Anderson Chow observed that Lau was denied a chance to explain her stance. Johnny Mok, representing the electoral officer, argued that there had not been evidence to suggest that Lau had changed her stance within a short period of time. He added Lau had the responsibility to inform the returning officer should there be a change, instead of the officer making an enquiry.
The court had adjourned the case to another date for verdict.
On Friday, Lau announced on Facebook that she would not be running in the upcoming Legislative Council election, which is tentatively set to take place on September 6.
She said she wanted to reserve more time to serve her affiliated party – the Labour Party – and other parts of civil society, as well as to coordinate with the pro-democracy camp’s plan to secure more than half of the seats in the legislature.
“Fighting for democracy is the common aspiration of every Hongkonger – I hope everyone can be united,” Lau wrote.
Repayment of wages
Another two democrats who were thrown out of the legislature – Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung – were ordered by a court last Tuesday to each repay HK$930,000 they received in advance as wages and subsidies before their disqualification.
The court had ruled in favour of the Legislative Council Commission after the former Youngspiration legislators failed to appear at the hearings. According to local media, the commission said Leung and Yau submitted their defence in 2018, but did not respond to the commission’s request to provide further information.
Last year, the commission asked to combine Leung and Yau’s cases but the duo did not attend the hearing. They also did not provide an explanation for their absence as required by the court. The commission argued that the ousted lawmakers had not actively fought their claims and the Registar decided to reject Leung and Yau’s defence.
Leung told local media that the commission had refused to accept his return of the supplies he bought and later pursued to recover his salary and subsidies. He slammed the authorities as “shifting the goalposts” to disqualify legislators and using “procedural tricks” to suppress them.
“If I still waste time and effort to respond to this, I think it is unreasonable,” Leung said, adding that he has owed more than HK$4 million legal fees. He said: “So for a small creditor like the Legislative Council Commission, [they] may have to wait in line.”