Ventus Lau, a pro-democracy activist barred from running in the New Territories East constituency during the March by-election, filed an petition to a court on Tuesday to overturn the election.
An election officer cited Lau’s past Facebook posts supporting Hong Kong independence in their decision to disqualify him. However, Lau said he had given up supporting the notion owing to the “political reality.”
The election officer also said Lau “clearly holds himself to succeed or replace” disqualified lawmaker Baggio Leung, who the officer claimed advocated Hong Kong independence and reportedly supported Lau’s run.
The election officer did not accept that Lau wholeheartedly upheld the Basic Law and pledged allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR – a requirement for standing in the election. He was thus disqualified.
Lau said that the political views of politicians often change and election officers should not consider their past political opinions: “[Executive Councillor] Ronny Tong is a classic example, in that his political views changed significantly.” he said.
Lau said that he applied for legal aid from the government in February, and it was approved this month, thus he applied for the election petition on Tuesday. He said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the result of the petition.
“This election petition is not for my own political future, it is more important to defend the fairness and freedom of people participating in politics in the future,” he said outside court.
“If people participating in politics have to censor their own past Facebook posts, and even have to be careful not to be friends with Hong Kong independence [advocates], then their dignity will be all gone,” he added.
An election petition filed by pro-independence activist Andy Chan failed after he was banned from the 2016 legislative election.
Court of First Instance judge Thomas Au ruled that a returning officer may examine matters beyond the formal compliance of the candidate’s nomination form, and said that candidates should be given a reasonable opportunity to respond to any concerns raised by officials.
Lau said Chan did not sign the confirmation form to declare that he upholds the Basic Law and pledges allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR, and did not answer questions from the election officer.
He added that he – however – signed the confirmation form, and the election officer did not ask him questions before disqualifying him.
The ruling for Chan’s case was handed down almost 18 months after he filed the challenge.
The term of the current Legislative Council will end in September 2020.
Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow has also filed an election petition challenging an election officer’s decision to bar her from running in the Hong Kong Island constituency of the by-election.