The High Court on Wednesday rejected a legal challenge over a ban on people sentenced to jail terms of three months or more, from running for public office for five years.
The judicial review was lodged by League of Social Democrats chairman Raphael Wong, who is barred from running in elections until 2024 after he was jailed for eight months over incitement charges last year, relating to the Occupy protests of 2014.
Wong’s lawyer had argued that the five year ban is disproportionate, and violates people’s constitutional right to stand in elections for the Legislative and District Councils, as well as rural bodies.
But Justice Anderson Chow ruled that the legislature indeed had the right to impose laws banning people convicted of criminal offences from running for public office.
He dismissed arguments that the threshold of a three-month prison sentence is too low, and that the disqualification period of five years from the date of conviction, is too high.
“These are not matters of exact science, but are primarily matters of value judgment”, the judge said.
“Unless the lines as drawn are plainly unreasonable, the court should respect of the judgment of the legislature which is better placed than the court to assess where the lines should be drawn.”
Judge Chow also ruled that the aim of the ban – to uphold public confidence in the integrity of the various public offices at issue – is legitimate.
Speaking after the ruling was handed, Wong told reporters he finds the court's decision to be 'regrettable', though he's not surprised.
Wong added that he will study the judgement in detail before deciding whether or not to appeal.
Other LSD members complained that the decision opens the door to 'more political persecution' from the authorities, noting that many pro-democracy district councillors and legislators have recently been arrested in relation to the months of social unrest.