Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Democracy activists Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam file legal challenge over ban on standing for office

Democracy activists Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam have filed a judicial review over laws banning anyone who has been jailed for over three months from running for public office for five years.

In August, Wong was sentenced to six months in jail for his participation in clashes that triggered the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014, while Lam was given 13 months for taking part in protests against the controversial northeast New Territories development plans. Lam is currently serving his jail sentence, while Wong has been released on bail pending appeal.

joshua wong

Photo: In-Media.

Under section 39 of the Legislative Council Ordinance, a person is disqualified from being nominated as a candidate at an election for five years if they have been sentenced to imprisonment – whether suspended or not – for any term exceeding three months. There is also a similar provision in the District Council Ordinance. As such, both Wong and Lam would be banned from taking part in any election.

According to a writ supplied by Wong, the pair seek a declaration that the provisions are unconstitutional or illegal for violating Articles 26 and 39 of the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights Ordinance. Article 26 states that “permanent residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law.”

Outside court on Tuesday, Wong told reporters that they hoped the judicial review will immediately abolish the ban. He also said that it was worth discussing whether the three-month prison term requirement can be increased and whether the five-year ban can be lowered.

“Looking at other countries that practise common law and former Commonwealth countries such as Canada or Australia – [their rule is] that one cannot run for election while in jail, but when they’ve completed their jail sentences they can definitely run.”

joshua wong

Photo: In-Media.

Wong also said that under the current judicial review system, only those who can prove that they have an interest in the relevant law can file a legal action over the matter. “Therefore, if it were not for the fact that I was sentenced to jail for over three months, I would not have been able to apply for this judicial review.”

Asked whether the judicial review was related to any intention to run in the 2020 Legislative Council elections, Wong said that the move was to benefit the entire pro-democracy camp. He said that it was not just for himself and Demosisto, but also for the 13 northeast New Territories protesters and localists. “Even two of the nine defendants charged in relation to the Occupy protests are lawmakers,” he said, referring to lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun.

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Democracy activists Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam file legal challenge over ban on standing for office