Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Oath row: Election petition against lawmaker Lau Siu-lai dismissed as opponent fails to pay deposit

The High Court has dismissed an election petition seeking to unseat localist lawmaker Lau Siu-lai, after the applicant failed to deposit the required HK$20,000.

The applicant, Jackson Kwan San-wai, filed an election petition against Lau earlier this month after losing in the Kowloon West Constituency of the Legislative Council election in September. He is a member of Politihk Social Strategic, a pro-establishment think-tank that opposes Hong Kong independence.

lau siu lai taking oath

Lau siu-lai taking oath. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Kwan asked the court on Friday for an extension after failing to pay the deposit. He said since he left Hong Kong the day after filing the petition, his lawyer was unable to seek his instructions and make the payment on time.

Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung criticised Kwan’s lawyer for failing to inform the applicant of the deposit requirement despite knowing that he would be away. He said even if the applicant was out of the territory, he could still communicate with his lawyer through electronic means.

Mr Justice Au also questioned Kwan’s decision to file the petition knowing that there is a pending judicial review over Lau’s oath, which will affect the results of Kwan’s petition.

The judge held that Kwan’s reasons were not enough to justify an extension, dismissing the application.

Kwan is represented by lawyer Maggie Chan Man-ki, former district councillor of the pro-Beijing DAB party. She won an injunction application against pro-democracy protesters on behalf of a minibus association during the 2014 Occupy protests.

Kwan San-wai Maggie Chan Man-ki

Kwan San-wai (left) and lawyer Maggie Chan Man-ki (right). File Photo: Apple Daily.

In the petition, Kwan argued that Lau did not uphold the Basic Law owing to her conduct during the swearing-in session, thereby breaching the confirmation form and declaration she signed when running for the legislature.

He also asked the court to determine whether Lau would need to repay her salary and other expenses already paid by the legislature if she was disqualified.

Last month, Lau read her oath in slow motion over a period of almost ten minutes. She later said on social media that the purpose was to deprive the pledge of its meaning by reading out each word in isolation.

The pro-Beijing camp has said on multiple occasions that Lau’s social media post is strong evidence that she had refused to take the oath, a ground for disqualification.

However, lawyer Kevin Yam told HKFP earlier that Lau’s impugned manner is open to debate and it is not definite that she would lose the challenge.

HKU law lecturer Eric Cheung Tat-ming said Lau has a “higher risk” than other lawmakers whose oaths are also being challenged.

Mr Justice Au is also scheduled to hear another election petition on Friday, filed by Hong Kong National Party leader Chan Ho-tin over the Registration and Electoral Office’s decision to block him from standing as a candidate in the Legislative Council election in September.

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Oath row: Election petition against lawmaker Lau Siu-lai dismissed as opponent fails to pay deposit