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Saturday, June 6, 2015, 12:10

Legal challenge to constitutional reform process quashed

By Timothy Chui in Hong Kong

The June 17 vote on granting universal suffrage for 5 million eligible voters is set to proceed after a legal challenge to reset the city’s constitutional reform process was quashed by the High Court on Friday.

Student activist and “Occupy Central” movement figure Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok had applied for a judicial review in an attempt to reset or at least stall the five-step process to bring greater political participation to the SAR.

Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung said it was premature to question the legal validity of laws not yet passed. He also rejected claims that the city’s nominating process would block certain residents from standing for election.

Leung alleged the consultation process was tainted by a misreading of the Basic Law and that the government was wrong to say the August 2014 National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) ruling was legally and constitutionally binding in Hong Kong.

While Leung took issue with how the consultation process unfolded and the proposed nomination system, her lawyers failed to convince Au the alleged error of law would have affected the decision laid down by the NPCSC.

Calling her counsels’ arguments unreasonable and without realistic prospects for success, Au wrote in his judgment that the review was premature. He noted that the courts in general, and as far as possible, avoided interfering in the legislative process, adding they would only do so in extraordinary cases.

He said the courts should be slow to interfere in any legislative process out of respect for the separation of powers within government.

This was especially the case when the process was ongoing and highly political, “given the heightened risk of the judiciary being undesirably drawn into the political arena, and the perception of judicial independence being undermined,” the judge noted.

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