Four pro-democracy lawmakers ousted following a government judicial review are seeking to raise HK$5 million in donations from the public, after being ordered to pay the government’s legal bill.
On Friday, the High Court ruled that popularly-elected lawmakers Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law and Leung Kwok-hung, as well as the architectural sector’s Edward Yiu, will be disqualified over the ways in which they took their oaths of offices last October. The court previously ejected localists Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung, bringing the total number of disqualified lawmakers to six.
Beginning last December, the Justice Defence Fund – hosted by the pro-democracy Hong Kong Professional Teachers Union – has been crowdfunding for Lau, Law, Leung and Yiu’s own legal costs. Of the four lawmakers, only Leung was granted legal aid by the Department of Justice.
By June, the Fund had raised HK$4.72 million. The figure was deemed to be more than sufficient, and in June, it switched to support activists prosecuted over their roles in the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests.
But on Friday, the High Court ordered the four newly-disqualified lawmakers to also pay the government’s legal costs.
Solicitor Ng Gene Bond, who represented Lau Siu-lai, told HKFP he estimated that the total bill for the four respondents will amount to at least HK$2-3 million. Solicitor Jonathan Man, who represented Nathan Law, gave an estimate of HK$4 million: “The government filed against the four [lawmakers] together, so it should be a lump sum.”
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, who filed the judicial review back in December, were represented by a team of lawyers led by senior counsel Johnny Mok.
On Monday, the Justice Defence Fund announced that it would once again begin crowdfunding in support of Lau, Law, Leung and Yiu, aiming for a sum of HK$5 million.
So far, the four ousted lawmakers have not yet decided whether they will appeal the High Court’s ruling. Leung Kwok-hung told RTHK that appealing the decision would cost between HK$1-3 million depending on whether he receives legal aid. He said he was therefore considering not appealing, if he lacked sufficient funds.
Furthermore, Nathan Law added that if the legislature decided to ask the ousted lawmakers to return their wages and subsidies – as they are considered to have vacated office on the date of their oaths – they will have to pay up to HK$4 million each.
Individuals subject to an ongoing bankruptcy order cannot run for the Legislative Council. The government has not yet set a date for a by-election to fill the six vacated legislative seats.