HONG KONG • Independence advocate Edward Leung, who was disqualified from running in last month's Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong, yesterday challenged the constitutionality of the government's decision.
In a petition filed at the High Court, Mr Leung claimed the decision was "unconstitutional" and amounted to "an unreasonable restriction" on his rights to be elected under the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
University of Hong Kong legal scholar Eric Cheung told SCMP a by-election in New Territories East - which Mr Leung had planned to contest - would be very likely if the court found the 25-year-old eligible to stand in the elections.
Mr Leung, who heads the Hong Kong Indigenous party, is one of the most high-profile so-called "localist" activists to have emerged in the wake of the Occupy Central pro-democracy protests that swept Hong Kong in 2014.
Seven localists, most of them in their 20s, were elected to the 70-seat Legco last month, exceeding expectations.
But Mr Leung's candidacy had been invalidated by the Electoral Affairs Commission in August on the grounds that he advocated that Hong Kong split from China.
The decision came despite Mr Leung signing a "confirmation form" from the commission stating his acceptance of Hong Kong's status as an inalienable part of China.
Outside the court yesterday, Mr Leung said he expected the hearing to start a year from now, reported SCMP.
"I have no idea how long it will last," he said. "It will be a long battle."
He was confident of success. "Nine out of 10 people with legal knowledge would think I'd win," he said, adding that if the court ruled in his favour, a by-election might be possible within two to three years.
In his petition, Mr Leung challenges the Electoral Affairs Commis- sion's legal right to decide or enquire whether he was being genuine in signing the declaration in his nomination form, reported SCMP.
The decision constitutes a material irregularity in that the outcome of the New Territories East election might have been affected by it, says the petition.
Mr Leung was one of six Legco hopefuls barred from running in the elections.
Hong Kong National Party convenor Chan Ho Tin last month mounted a legal challenge against the government decision.
Other rejected candidates included the Democratic Progressive Party's Yeung Ke Cheong and independence advocate Nakade Hitsujiko.
Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang said Mr Leung's legal action is unlikely to affect the legislature's operations.
"We have an established legal system and procedure to deal with any demands raised by anyone... including election petitions," he was quoted by SCMP as saying.