Two radical lawmakers are expected to keep their Legislative Council seats, despite receiving suspended jail terms yesterday for their leading roles in an unlawful assembly two years ago.
Under Article 79 of the Basic Law, Legco can expel any lawmaker who is jailed for more than one month - if an impeachment motion is raised and supported by a two-thirds majority.
However, such a motion is unlikely to succeed because the pan-democratic bloc, with 27 seats, would be expected to vote it down.
Wong Yuk-man, the People Power legislator who quit the party on Monday, was sentenced to six weeks in prison, suspended for 14 months. His former party colleague Albert Chan Wai-yip was handed a five-week jail term, suspended for a year. They were also fined HK$4,800 each.
They described the sentences as unreasonable and vowed to appeal.
Eastern Court Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing said Wong received the heavier punishment for making false accusations in court against the police.
Dismissing their claim they were protesting at the "draconian" Public Order Ordinance, To said: "Unless a law was declared unconstitutional by the court, [no one can choose] to obey a law or not … no one is above the law either, otherwise the rule of law, as a core value of Hong Kong, would be groundless."
People Power rallied scores of people on July 1, 2011 to continue protesting after an annual march organised by the Civil Human Rights Front.
Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said an impeachment motion could still be raised against Wong and Chan, even though their jail sentences were suspended. Lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said she believed the pro-establishment camp would file a motion to oust the pair.
"There is no reason not to. We should do it according to the Basic Law and Legco's rules of procedure," she said. "If we always fear to take action, we do not deserve our seats."
But independent pro-Beijing lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun and New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said they would have to read the court judgment before deciding to raise or support such a motion.
Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said he believed pan-democrats would not support any such motion. "It is not a matter of their integrity, but a struggle for their freedom of speech," he said.
Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun said the court ruling showed that the behaviour of Wong and Chan was "inappropriate but not too serious" and the party would not support a motion to disqualify them.
Chan said that if they were disqualified, the re-election it triggered would turn into a referendum.
"It would boost the Occupy Central protest," he said, referring to plans to rally protesters to blockade Central next year if the government does not come up with a satisfactory plan to implement universal suffrage for the chief executive election in 2017.
In March last year another radical legislator, "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, faced an impeachment after being given a two-month sentence for disrupting a public forum. Leung survived as the bid failed to get a two-thirds majority.
Former lawmaker Chim Pui-chung lost his seat in 1998 after being sentenced to three years' jail, reduced to 12 months on appeal, for plotting to forge share-transfer documents.