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LCQ15: Judicial review cases involving the Government

     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (May 23):


     Regarding the impacts of the judicial review (JR) cases during the term of office of current-term Chief Executive (CE), including as reported, the delay of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) project and the additional public expenditure of more than $8.8 billion thus incurred, as a result of the JR case on the Environmental Impact Assessment reports for the HZMB project filed by a senior citizen allegedly under the instigation by the Civic Party, the core members of which are several counsel, as well as the impact brought by supporting foreign domestic helpers in seeking the right of abode in Hong Kong, etc., will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the current-term Government and the CE-elect, who is forming a new governing team, have addressed the aforesaid issue seriously, and initiated communication and discussion on formulating counter-measures in this regard;

(b) given that the new-term Government has proposed reorganisation of its structure and creation of some 70 posts involving an estimated annual expenditure of more than $70 million, whether it knows if manpower has been set aside for the new-term Government, in the process of studying and formulating policies and initiating relevant consultation, to coordinate and discuss as early as possible with the aforesaid political party as well as other individuals who may file JR applications against the polices proposed by the Government, so as to minimise or avoid delays in policy implementation by the new-term Government and additional spending of public money that may possibly be caused by individuals filing JR applications; if so, of the plan; which bureau and newly added manpower will be responsible for the relevant work; if not, whether it can ask CE-elect to conduct study in this regard as soon as possible before the current-term Legislative Council scrutinises his proposal on reorganisation of the government structure; and

(c) of the policies to facilitate the Judiciary to adopt appropriate measures of cases management, prioritising the listing of hearing, as well as other administrative measures, to reduce the workload of the Judiciary which is operating under tight resources, and to minimise as far as possible the adverse impact on the implementation of government policies and the wastage of public money caused by abusing or delaying judicial proceedings?



(a) The current-term Government's vision is to boost economic development and create job opportunities through infrastructural projects, promote Hong Kong's further economic integration with the Mainland, and pay heed to the need for environmental protection and cultural conservation.  In governing Hong Kong, the SAR Government respects the right of citizens to apply for judicial reviews.  The SAR Government will abide strictly by the rule of law, and deal with the challenges posed by judicial reviews in accordance with the law.

     To ensure a smooth transition, the current-term Government has been exchanging views frequently with the Chief Executive-elect on a variety of issues which have a bearing on the next-term Government.

(b) One of the key objectives of the Chief Executive-elect's proposed reorganisation of the Government Secretariat is to require Secretaries of Departments and Directors of Bureaux to reach out more extensively and thoroughly to political parties, the general public and other stakeholders.  If the proposed reorganisation proposal is approved, politically appointed officials of the new governing team could seek public views on a broad scale and at an early stage in the policy formulation process.  This will be conducive to smooth policy implementation and will reduce the likelihood of controversies arising after the promulgation of policies.

(c) As regards part (c) of the question, the Administration has consulted the Judiciary and has received the following information:

     Judicial review cases are handled in the "Constitutional and Administrative Law List" of the Court of First Instance of the High Court.  This List is a specialist one headed by the Judge in charge of the List.  An application for judicial review (JR Application) is by way of a two-stage procedure:

(i) the first step is for the applicant to obtain from the court leave, i.e. permission, to bring the JR Application.  The Court will consider such leave application in accordance with Order 53, rule 3 of the Rules of the High Court (Cap. 4A); and

(ii) if leave is granted by the Court, the JR Application may proceed.  If leave is refused, no JR Application can be brought.  Where justified, priority listing can be arranged for the hearing of important or urgent cases and appeals.

     In view of the above, the Judiciary considers that there is a well-established mechanism to handle JR Applications.  The two-stage procedure ensures that JR Applications are dealt with fairly and expeditiously and that there is sufficient safeguard to prevent unmeritorious cases from being brought about or unnecessary delay.

Ends/Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:45


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