Let the court clarify what is acceptable behaviour when taking oaths
The government’s move to eject four more lawmakers may raise tensions, and we should trust our judges to rule according to the law
The oath-taking fiasco leading to the disqualification of two pro-independence lawmakers has intensified. Just when the legislature is struggling to restore order and stability following the saga, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung have again asked the court to remove another four opposition members on the grounds that they had failed to take their oaths of office according to the law.
The government may think that it is only fair to oust those who have not sworn themselves in properly, especially after the state’s top legislative body stepped in with an interpretation of the relevant provision in the Basic Law. But the move to unseat more pro-democracy lawmakers has raised the stakes even higher, so much so that it may backfire and fuel more uncertainty. Speculation has been growing ever since as many as 15 lawmakers were deemed by Beijing as having failed to swear in properly under the law. Instead of invalidating them in one fell swoop, the judicial review only targeted Edward Yiu Chung-yim of the architectural sector and three directly elected members, Lau Siu-lai, Leung Kwok-hung and Nathan Law Kwun-chung.
The government must have thoroughly considered the legal merits and the possible consequences before taking such a controversial step. According to the writ, the four should be disqualified as they had made political statements or showed insincerity when taking their oaths. The justice secretary stresses that the move is not politically motivated, but critics see it as the chief executive’s plot to drum up support for a possible re-election bid. They also warned that the opposition bloc could lose its critical presence in Legco that keeps the government in check.
Leung’s step is in line with the hawkish approach adopted by Beijing on the oath-taking saga. But it risks upsetting the 130,000 voters who returned the four members. Confusion arose on Monday after the finance chief declared that the government would not answer questions from the four for the time being. The statement even surprised the pro-Beijing camp, which feared that it would fuel more tension in Legco. The government made a U-turn hours later, saying their questions would be answered.
Whether the four should be thrown out is now a matter for the court to decide. We trust our judges will rule according to the law. The Court of Appeal has expounded the legal principles when upholding the lower court’s ruling to remove the two lawmakers. It is to be hoped that the new lawsuit can clarify what sort of behaviour is unacceptable during swearings-in for public office.