HKFP: Hong Kong’s John Lee asks court to ‘relieve’ penalties for failing to comply with election regulations

Hong Kong Free Press report

The chief executive-elect ran three election ads in April, but failed to submit copies of related documents within one working day of their publication, an offence that is punishable by a HK$5,000 fine and six months in prison.

Hong Kong’s incoming chief executive John Lee has asked the city’s High Court to waive penalties over his failure to submit three consent forms on time for advertisements linked to last month’s small-circle leadership race.

In a writ filed on Tuesday, the 64-year-old chief executive-elect admitted that he did not file copies of three Consent of Support forms within one working day after three election ads were published on April 13, April 17 and April 18. The move breached a section of the regulation related to the city’s leadership election and is punishable by a fine of HK$5,000 and six months in prison.

The consent forms in question were signed by Hong Kong’s women’s table tennis team coach Li Ching, lawmaker Nelson Lam and artist Alex Fong. Lee asked the High Court to “exempt” him from the requirement, as well as to “relieve” him from penalties that stemmed from his failure to comply with electoral regulations. He also urged the court to waive the costs of his application for the penalties to be waived.

Election advertisement consent of support Li Ching
Li Ching’s Consent of Support for John Lee’s election advertisement. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Last month, Lee won the city’s top job in an unopposed race, securing 1,416 votes in support of his candidacy – and eight “not support” ballots – from the government-vetted Election Committee. He will take office on July 1, when Hong Kong marks 25 years since its handover from Britain to China.

During his campaign in April, local newspaper Ming Pao revealed that Lee published election advertisements online which involved statements by Li, Lam and Fong. The related consent forms were filed two to three days late, the report said.

Lee was represented by Sit, Fung, Kwong & Shum Solicitors.

A similar application for relieving penalties over a breach of election advertisement regulations was granted by the High Court last month. Judge Keith Yeung ruled that the applicant Mike Lam, one of the 47 pro-democracy figures charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, had “no bad faith” when he failed to show information of the printer and date of printing on advertisements he printed for the 2020 legislative polls, which was later postponed for a year with authorities citing Covid-19 fears.

Lam, who founded the Abouthai retail chain, argued that his non-compliance was “the result of inexperience and inadvertence,” adding he and his election agents had not committed any other such breaches. While the court allowed the punishments to be waived, Lam was ordered to pay court fees of HK$25,318.