Hot on the heels of Sunday’s Legislative Council by-elections came an attempt from the pro-establishment camp to have one of the winning pan-democrat candidates disqualified.
On Tuesday, a businessman named Wong Tai-hoi, with the help of former lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU), filed an application for judicial review with the court seeking to oust Au Nok-hin, the pan-democratic candidate who took the Hong Kong Island seat on Sunday.
According to Wong Tai-hoi, the lawsuit was filed on the grounds that Au had set fire to a copy of the Basic Law during a protest in 2016, suggesting that he had never really respected or upheld Hong Kong’s constitution.
Wong Tai-hoi demanded that the court issue an injunction banning Au from taking oath of office at Legco next Wednesday.
Sources in the pro-establishment camp, however, tell me that they never heard of any order or instruction given by Beijing’s liaison office to seek Au’s disqualification. Nor are they optimistic about the camp’s chances of successfully getting Au seated this time.
So far since the 2016 Legco election there have been six lawmakers who had been ousted for alleged offenses in relation to oath-taking. They were unseated due to legal petitions initiated by the government. There has never been any single successful case of legal challenge lodged by citizens themselves against the eligibility or constitutionality of a sitting Legco member or a lawmaker-elect.
According to the pro-establishment camp sources, the bid to oust Au this time is hardly likely to be successful because it was not the government itself that launched the legal challenge against him.
Besides, they added, several pro-Beijing heavyweights and pro-establishment factions appear to be pretty lukewarm toward the HKFTU’s bid to disqualify Au.
For example, Elsie Leung Oi-sie, deputy director of the Basic Law committee of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, has dismissed the grounds against Au, stressing that “if the returning officer decided that he was eligible to run, then he was.”
As such, sources speculated that Wong Kwok-hing and the HKFTU are probably going it alone this time in trying to seek Au’s disqualification, perhaps as a premeditated gesture to “pledge allegiance”, and that it wasn’t Beijing’s idea at all.
In fact it has become an open secret that Wong Kwok-hing, who failed to secure nomination for the by-elections, is aggressively eying the next race.
As such, he is said to be pulling this high-profile stunt in an attempt to warm up and rally support from among the diehard pro-Beijing camp.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 14
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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