Ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai has said she will retract her appeal against her disqualification after consulting the pro-democracy camp.
The move could trigger a by-election in the Kowloon West constituency as early as the end of this year.
The appeals of Lau and another disqualified lawmaker – “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung – were scheduled to be heard next April.
They applied to schedule the hearings earlier, but Leung’s case could only be heard as early as November, and it was uncertain whether Lau’s case would be handled at the same time.
Lau said she and Leung wanted to fight against their disqualifications via legal means, but the hearings were a long time away, and they faced high psychological pressure and great legal cost.
Lau added that if Leung’s case was scheduled earlier, her case may be rescheduled again to a later date.
“It seems wiser for me to retract my appeal,” Lau said.
Leung said he would not retract his appeal.
“I want to let the judges hear my case – I hope they do not forget the oaths they took when they became judges,” he said.
Leung added that the initial cases that disqualified the four were heard quickly, but their appeals were scheduled more than a year after they applied.
“I believe Lau’s choice is wise – How do we know if [the government] won’t do something to delay it even more?” he said.
Lau said the case stemmed from the “unreasonable” interpretation of the Basic Law by Beijing – which deemed that lawmakers must take their oaths accurately and solemnly – and thanked Leung for carrying on the legal fight.
Lau said she has not yet decided whether to run in the by-election.
Asked about the risk of being barred from running in future elections, Lau told reporters that the question should be directed to Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip.
Lau said she suggested former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan of the Labour Party as a substitute candidate if a pro-democracy candidate is barred from running.
“He can unite the pro-democracy camp,” she said.
Nathan Law, another disqualified lawmaker, said he would support any kind of protest raised by Lau and Leung, whether or not they took place in the courts.
Joseph Cheng, who runs the Justice Defense Fund – a campaign to raise money for the four disqualified lawmakers – said the fund has raised HK$11.4 million and spent HK$4.5 million on their cases.
Cheng added that the fund still has around HK$5.7 million left after deducting funds for other cases, such as HK$1 million for the nine people charged for their roles in the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests.
In the March by-election, pro-Beijing candidate Vincent Cheng beat pro-democracy candidate Edward Yiu in Kowloon West.
Before the election, there were rumours that Yiu, a disqualified lawmaker himself, would be barred from running. But he was allowed to run after the election officer asked him several questions regarding his allegiance to the Basic Law.
The term of the current Legislative Council is set to end in September 2020.