HK lawmakers lose seats after Court of Final Appeal upholds ruling their elections to Legislative Council were invalid

18-Dec-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Two Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers were officially unseated on Tuesday when the city’s most senior judges refused to let them challenge lower court rulings that declared their elections invalid.

The Court of Final Appeal upheld the decision that Au Nok-hin and Gary Fan Kwok-wai were not duly elected because of the bungled disqualification of two other candidates ahead of the contest.

Those two candidates Agnes Chow Ting and Ventus Lau Wing-hong, also from the pan-democratic camp, had both complained in election petitions that they were not given an opportunity to respond after the returning officers barred them on the grounds of their stance on self-determination for the city.

After Chow and Lau were disqualified, Au and Fan were elected to the Legislative Council via the March 2018 by-election.

Legislators Gary Fan and Au Nok-hin appear at the Court of Final Appeal, where they lost their fight to save their places in the city’s legislature. (SCMP)

Legislators Gary Fan and Au Nok-hin appear at the Court of Final Appeal, where they lost their fight to save their places in the city’s legislature. (SCMP)

Chow, however, did not intend to unseat her fellow pro-democracy politician Au, who ran in her place for a Hong Kong Island seat. But her earlier legal victory had put Au in a difficult position.

In lodging an appeal against Chow’s successful petition, Au’s lawyers argued for an option to challenge the returning officers’ decisions, without unseating the elected pan-democrat candidates.

But Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said the purpose of an election petition was to unseat those elected, and he dismissed the application.

“This is not a game, this is a serious legal procedure,” Ma said. “We are not in your favour.”

The court ruling has left the total number of lawmakers in Legco at 67, with pan-democrats holding 23 seats.

It is not immediately clear whether the election authorities will hold a by-election for the two vacated seats before the general election in September next year.

Outside the court, Au and Fan condemned the government and said the returning officer’s “political screening” had in effect deprived the collective will of 300,000 voters at the by-election.

“The election petition system is flawed. When the returning officer tried to screen candidates political views and deprive them of the chance of election, the only remedy of election petition is to void the results although they won in the previous elections,” Fan said, adding he would consult his party whether he would run in a potential by-election.

Au said: “This judgement shows a returning officer can disqualify the backup candidates again.”

“A by-election is wholly unnecessarily, because that’s only an error committed by the returning officer.”

 

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