Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick withdrew his legal bid against his disqualification from a rural representative election on Monday, acknowledging he had little chance of winning the case.
The potential for high legal costs involved in the petition proceedings launched on February 1 last year also played a part, he said.
Chu was ousted from the election for the post of village head at Yuen Kong Sun Tsuen in Yuen Long in 2018, after returning officer Enoch Yuen Ka-lok found he had implicitly supported Hong Kong’s self-determination since 2016.
He filed the petition against Yuen, and elected candidate Yeung Kam-lun, on the grounds that the returning officer was not entitled to determine whether a candidate truly upholds the Basic Law – the city’s mini-constitution – or his allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
But the High Court heard on Monday that Chu had opted to withdraw the petition, after reviewing the rulings made by the Court of First Instance, and the Court of Final Appeal, in relation to last year’s election petitions by Ventus Lau Wing-hong, and Agnes Chow Ting.
Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming granted Chu’s application after both respondents raised no objections.
The judge observed the courts had in both judgments left open the question on how to determine whether an election official has correctly disqualified a candidate in accordance to the law. He also ordered Chu to bear the costs of the proceedings.
Chu said in his statement the government’s “political screening” of election candidates would not stop, notwithstanding the outcome of his case.
“After six months of democratic movement, Hongkongers have already realised that if Hong Kong’s political regime was not reformed from its root, the SAR government will only continue to abuse electoral laws and pave the way for political screenings according to the orders of the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
Chu’s withdrawal followed the lower court’s ruling on September 2 that Agnes Chow was wrongly invalidated in the Legislative Council by-elections in 2018, as the returning officer failed to give her a fair opportunity to defend her political stance.
But the court also ruled the doctrine of self-determination contravened the “one country, two systems” principle implemented under the Basic Law, and the officer might still decide to deny Chow had she been offered a chance to put forward her case.
In contrast, Chu was given the chance to respond to the returning officer before his disqualification from the lower-level, typically non-political election.
The lower court made a ruling similar to Agnes Chow’s on September 13 in favour of Lau, who also ran in the Legco by-elections.
The two cases ended with the ousting of pro-democracy lawmakers Au Nok-hin and Gary Fan Kwok-wai, whom the court ruled not duly elected because of the wrongful disqualification of Chow and Lau. The ruling was maintained by the top court on December 17.
Ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai, the third pro-democracy candidate barred from contesting the Legco by-elections, filed a petition on January 25 last year and argued she was not given a chance by the election official to defend her political stance. A hearing date has yet to be fixed.