A ruling earlier this month that overturned a government decision to ban Demosisto member Agnes Chow from running in the 2018 LegCo by-election didn’t just put the seat in question up for grabs, it set precedent.
In a judgement handed down today, High Court Judge Anderson Chow specifically cited Chow’s legal challenge — and his own ruling in that case — in deciding for pro-democracy activist Ventus Lau, who in 2018 went after the seat vacated by short-lived Youngspiration lawmaker Baggio Leung.
Leung, if you’ll remember, had his seat taken away when he deliberately misread his oath of office during his swearing-in ceremony (draping himself in a flag with the words “Hong Kong is not China” also presumably did him no favors).
But Lau’s bid for the suddenly open seat was unilaterally snuffed out by election official Amy Chan, who said Lau’s support for Hong Kong self-determination would make it impossible for him to uphold the city’s Basic Law.
While Lau at the time publicly renounced his support for self-determination, Chan wasn’t buying it, saying the public shift was “made purely because of political reality,” the South China Morning Post reported.
In today’s judgement, Judge Chow said that his Sept. 2 ruling that the Agnes Chow decision was inappropriate as she was given no opportunity to defend herself applied to Lau as well.
Chan, he said, failed to give Lau “a reasonable opportunity to respond” before making her decision, and a failure that “amounted to a material irregularity in the election.”
Lau “was unfairly deprived of the opportunity to make representations in response to the alleged concerns of the Returning Officer as to his intention to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the HKSAR,” he said.
While Chow did note today that Chan had the right to look beyond the declaration form Lau had signed pledging allegiance to the SAR, her decision to bar him was “one-sided and based on selective and incomplete information.”
And yes, if you’re wondering, that does mean that Gary Fan — the pro-democracy lawmaker who eventually won the New Territories East seat — was therefore not duly elected and the seat is now vacant.
Speaking outside the courtroom today, Fan said he accepted the judge’s decision saying “no Hong Kong citizen should be disqualified, should be deprived of his right to run for public office solely because of his political beliefs, political stance, and political opinions.”
Fan also said it was too early for him to say if he would stand for re-election, but that he will continue to fight for democracy, even if that’s from outside LegCo.