Hong Kong lawmakers seek to oust new leader

Hong Kong's new leader Leung Chun-ying.

HONG KONG - Pro-democracy lawmakers Thursday filed legal challenges to the election of Hong Kong’s new leader less than a week after he took office amid the biggest demonstrations in the city in nearly a decade.

Organisers said 400,000 people took to the streets Sunday to protest against Leung Chun-ying’s leadership and Beijing’s interference in local affairs, hours after Leung was sworn in as chief executive before Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho said he filed two separate legal cases with the high court Thursday, seeking to oust Leung on grounds that the leader allegedly made false statements during the election campaign.

“I just want to uphold the integrity of the system to make sure we have a fair election,” said Ho, who contested against Leung and another candidate in the leadership election in March but finished third.

“Our system is already less than democratic, it’s undemocratic, at least the minimum we want is that the process was held strictly in accordance with the laws,” the lawyer told AFP.

Leung was picked by a 1,200-strong committee packed with pro-Beijing elites in March in a process dubbed a “small circle” election, where the city’s seven million population does not get to choose it own leader by popular vote.

The legal challenges were centred on Leung’s pledge that his house had no illegal improvement works – a controversial issue in Hong Kong that saw support for Leung’s main rival Henry Tang dramatically plunge during the race after an illegal basement was found at his home.

But Leung, a surveyor by profession, was forced to apologise last week after local media discovered his home in an upscale neighbourhood had six illegal structures, and to quickly demolish them.

Citing local laws, Ho claimed Leung had engaged in “illegal conduct” by making a “false and misleading statement” and asked the court to decide whether Leung was duly elected, according to a copy of the court filing given to AFP. Maverick lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung filed a similar lawsuit on Wednesday to challenge the leader’s win.

Leung Chun-ying has urged people to work with him, as he vowed to tackle a widening gap between the rich and poor, and soaring property costs which have made home ownership an impossible dream for many residents, especially younger people.

Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 but maintains a semi-autonomous status with its own legal and financial system.

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