It’s time for Hong Kong pan-democrats to stand up and condemn localist lawmakers’ offensive behaviour

Gary Cheung notes the double standards of legislators who dare not criticise their activist colleagues for flouting Legco rules – and the norms of decency – for fear of losing youth support

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 October, 2016, 2:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 October, 2016, 7:08pm

Two weeks ago, newly elected lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung wore a suit and tie to take part in an edition of the Post’s “Redefining Hong Kong” debate. It was the first time I had seen the Occupy student-activist so formally dressed. He later explained that the invitation had asked attendees to come in business attire, and so he “respect[ed] the occasion”.

Sadly, “respecting the occasion” is no longer something we can expect of some people, particularly, it seems, young activists who champion lofty ideals. At the swearing-in ceremony for new legislators last Wednesday, Younspiration’s Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching pledged allegiance to “the Hong Kong nation” and pronounced China as “Cheena”, a variation of the derogatory “Shina”. Both held up banners bearing the words “Hong Kong is not China”, while Yau mispronounced the “People’s Republic of China” as “People’s Re-f****** of Cheena” three times. Their oaths were invalidated and they must take it again on Wednesday.

The two localists stole the limelight all right. They may even take pride in shooting to international fame, as media organisations such as the BBC reported on their oaths being rejected.

But what they did was an example of failing to respect the occasion, which was a solemn ceremony for lawmakers taking office. Blaming the mispronunciation on their accent just shows that they are good at peddling low-grade humour; anyone with common sense will find their defence laughable.

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The two localists, who aim to use the legislature as a platform to advocate for the city’s self-determination, picked the wrong fight. What did they think they could achieve by staging this ugly show, apart from capturing media headlines and drawing condemnation from different quarters of the community? Their offensive act will only further discredit the Legislative Council, whose credibility is already in question after the spectacles of object-hurling and filibustering by members over the past few years.

It is disappointing that most pan-democrats have not criticised the two localists’ antics or at least distanced themselves from the pair. Worse, more than a dozen pan-democratic and localist lawmakers signed a joint statement arguing that the two youngsters and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, whose oath was also declared invalid after he added phrases such as “universal suffrage” to it, had properly taken their oaths. The lawmakers also called on Legco secretary general Kenneth Chen Wai-on, who oversaw the oath-taking, to resign for wrongly declaring their oaths invalid. The fact is that Leung and Yau had altered the official wording of the oath, a move inconsistent with the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance.

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Since the Occupy Central movement, many traditional pan-democrats have been reluctant to condemn the inappropriate acts of the young activists so as not to alienate young voters. It appears that the activists are infallible, and whatever they do and say is justifiable.

In February 2013, when Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok, a barrister and member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong , denounced pan-democratic lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung as “not a f**king Chinese” at a meeting in Legco, Ma’s use of foul language drew widespread disapproval from pan-democrats at the time. Why the double standards now?

It is high time for the pan-democrats, who enjoy the support of many Hong Kong voters, to differentiate right from wrong.

Gary Cheung is the Post’s political editor