Court dismisses legal challenge to electoral changes

A legal challenge to the tabling of a bill in Legco that will set down Beijing’s changes to the SAR’s electoral system has been thrown out by a High Court judge, who held that it has little prospect of success as local courts have no jurisdiction over the matter.

The legal challenge by Kwok Cheuk-kin, the “king of judicial reviews”, argued that the bill, if passed, will go against Hong Kong people’s right to vote and be elected in genuine, periodic elections by universal suffrage.

He also argued that there will be a conflict of interest for the chief executive because government appointees will get to select people to sit in a revamped election committee that picks the city’s leader.

Kwok suggested that it was against procedural fairness that future decisions made by a vetting committee to screen election candidates – the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee – cannot be legally challenged.

Handing down his decision, judge Anderson Chow said there is no reason for the court to entertain the application when the bill has not become law.

He added that even if the bill becomes law, it would be “highly questionable” whether the legal challenge could go ahead.

Chow said the Court of Final Appeal had held in a separate case involving media tycoon Jimmy Lai that Hong Kong courts cannot review the constitutionality of the legislative acts of the National People’s Congress and its standing committee to impose the national security law on Hong Kong last year.

He said the top court’s reasoning indicates that Hong Kong courts cannot review the constitutionality of the bodies’ decisions to introduce electoral changes to the SAR.

And, he said, it is unlikely that there could be any scope for constitutional review once the bill is passed.

In refusing to allow the application, Chow said the challenge was neither reasonably arguable or had a realistic prospect of success.