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Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Hong Kong courts are the proper place to hear government’s case against lawmakers, whatever the pan-democrats think

John Chan says pan-democrats who denounce the government’s judicial reviews over oaths as illegal are blinded by their own anti-government bias

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 8:09pm

The Chinese term pang men zuo dao (旁門左道) is often used to describe the dirty tricks or unorthodox means employed to meet a goal. Speaking on the government’s move to file judicial reviews against four lawmakers, asking the court to declare their oaths invalid and their Legislative Council seats vacant, veteran lawmaker and senior solicitor James To Kun-sun described it as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s pang men zuo dao.

This stupid comment is typical of the many pan-democratic legislators and supporters who are all but blinded by their hatred of Leung and their instinctive opposition to the government.

Watch: Oath-taking by some lawmakers on October 12

To’s comment has smeared a proper and legal manoeuvre and, in doing so, insulted the judiciary and the rule of law. Judicial reviews are a legitimate tool available to everyone to redress the wrongdoings of those in power. It is up to our independent judiciary to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. No one has the right to criticise a citizen, including the chief executive, for exercising such a right.

Many pan-democrats appear to believe that judicial reviews are a legal tool for the exclusive use of the pan-democrats in such causes as delaying the progress of the bridge linking Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macau.

Judicial reviews are what separate Hong Kong from mainland China

Last month, Hong Kong’s last British governor, Chris Patten, said bluntly to a roomful of current and former pan-democratic lawmakers and supporters, as well as pro-independence supporters, that advocating independence for Hong Kong undermines the moral high ground gained in the democracy movement. He said it gives Beijing an excuse to label a push for democracy “separatist”. He said self-determination is little different from independence and attempting to differentiate the two is just playing with words.

Let the court clarify what is acceptable behaviour when taking oaths

It was no surprise that Patten launched an all-out attack on pro-independent undertakings. What did embarrass the pan-democrats was that, as a champion of democracy and rule of law, Patten made no comment on the recent move by Beijing to interpret the Basic Law, or the Hong Kong government’s application for judicial review proceedings against the two localist lawmakers-elect.

Instead, Patten criticised the behaviour of Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, saying that oath-taking should not be taken lightly. Patten knows well that Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law and the judicial reviews against lawmakers who did not take oaths sincerely have a solid constitutional and legal basis.

To’s dislike of the chief executive does not alter the fact that such moves are proper.

John Chan is a practising solicitor and a founding member of the Democratic Party