Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong in High Court bid over district council election ban

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong in High Court bid over district council election ban

Demosisto co-founder in legal battle to declare he followed nomination rules after election officials barred him over independence stance

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Joshua Wong is asking the High Court to clarify nomination rules after he was barred from standing in the district council elections in November.
Photo: Winson Wong/SCMP

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung has lodged a legal challenge against his disqualification from last year’s district council elections over his stance on Hong Kong independence.

Wong asked the High Court in a judicial review application to declare that he had fully complied with the requirements for running in the November 24 polls, where he was the only candidate barred because of his political standpoint.

Election officials in October said he had not changed his attitude to independence, which they ruled was in contravention of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

But Wong said in the legal application that his nomination was valid because he had signed a declaration showing his intention to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

He also asked the court to rule that returning officers were not entitled to invalidate nominations by questioning a candidate’s intention, sincerity or genuineness in signing such declaration.

The court documents were filed by Ho Tse Wai and Partners on February 3, but were only made available for the press to inspect on Tuesday, after the High Court registry resumed operations the previous day amid the coronavirus epidemic.

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The filing argued election officials’ vetting powers, granted by section 36(1) of the District Council Ordinance, infringe upon several human rights protections for candidates enshrined in the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights.

Lawyers said such powers amounted to a disproportionate and unjustifiable restriction on the candidate’s rights to stand for election, as well as the freedoms of expression and association.

“It is very difficult for a candidate to know how to ‘regulate’ his or her political beliefs and actions so as to avoid his or her nomination being invalidated,” the filing said.

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“The use of such vague tests as whether a candidate has an intention to ‘promote’ the Basic Law makes it impossible for a candidate to foresee to a reasonable degree whether the adoption of certain political beliefs or the taking of certain political actions would result in the invalidation of his or her nomination.”

A hearing date for the judicial review has yet to be fixed.

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