Ousted Hong Kong democrat Lau Siu-lai has won her legal challenge against an electoral officer’s decision to bar her from running in the 2018 Legislative Council Kowloon West by-election.

Thursday’s ruling rendered pro-Beijing lawmaker Rebecca Chan – who won the by-election – unduly elected because of Lau’s wrongful disqualification.

Lau Siu-lai. File photo: inmediahk.net.

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.

The disqualified lawmaker had hoped to salvage her seat in the legislature, after being stripped of her status in 2017 due to 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.

‘Bitter victory’

Meeting reporters outside the High Court, Lau described the latest decision as a “bitter victory” because the court only ruled against irregularities in the electoral procedures.

She said the returning officer could still “subjectively determine” whether she sincerely upheld the Basic Law, thus allowing candidates to be disqualified at will in the future: “It is just a bitter victory and can do nothing or very little to protect our legal right and political right.”

Photo: inmediahk.net via CC 2.0.

In the ruling, Court of First Instance Judge Anderson Chow said there was “material irregularity” in the by-election, as the returning officer failed – or refused – to give Lau the “proper opportunity” to respond materials intended to be used to determine her eligibility as a candidate.

The Labour Party politician said the “biggest impact” of the ruling was declaring Chan not duly elected, which Lau described as “a return of justice” to citizens.

‘Obstacle’

Speaking to the press at the Legislative Council, unseated lawmaker Chan said would not comment on the details in her case as legal proceedings were still ongoing.

Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan. File photo: inmediahk.net.

The pro-Beijing legislator said she and her legal team would review the ruling in depth before deciding whether or not to file an appeal.

“I will treat this as an obstacle. Everyone in their career path [faces] some difficulties,” she said. “In the face of any ruling today, I would continue what I should do. My work is not affected, my attitude is still the same.”

More to follow.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.