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Legislative Council oath-taking saga

CY Leung’s omission of ‘Hong Kong’ in 2012 oath does not make vow invalid, court hears

His lawyer also argued there were no good reasons to extend period within which retired civil servant’s judicial review application against chief executive should be made

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 2017, 10:17pm

Although Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had omitted the words “Hong Kong” when he recited his oath in 2012, it should not render the vow invalid, the High Court heard on Thursday, as the oath-taking saga triggered last year by the actions of two pro-independence lawmakers-elect continued.

Cheung Chau resident Kwok Cheuk-kin, who has a history of launching legal challenges against the local government, is seeking a judicial review against the Hong Kong leader over his oath taken about four years ago.

But Leung’s lawyer argued that there were no good reasons for the court to extend the period within which the review application should be made. Under High Court rules, applications for permission to apply for a judicial review should be made “promptly” and in any event within three months from the date when grounds for the application first arose.

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Barrister Benjamin Yu SC, representing the chief executive, said the application should have been made shortly after Leung assumed office in 2012.

The lawyer also said the Cheung Chau resident should bear the consequences and foot Leung’s legal bill if his application was rejected lest more potential claimants head to court for “bad reasons”.

Kwok filed his judicial review application in November against Leung and a number of Legislative Council members after the administration took legal action against two democratically elected localist lawmakers, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching. The pair sparked an uproar after they made remarks deemed insulting to China during the Legco swearing-in ceremony on October 12. Yau also unfurled a banner which read: “Hong Kong is not China.”

The episode prompted the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to issue an interpretation of Basic Law Article 104 – ahead of a court ruling on the administration’s challenge that eventually disqualified the duo.

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The interpretation stated that lawmakers must be “sincere” in taking their oaths of office and that those who do not comply will face instant disqualification.

Kwok argued that the ruling cast new light on all of the city’s swearing-in ceremonies for public office, including that of the chief executive in 2012.

Kwok later dropped his claims against the lawmakers, targeting only Leung.

On Thursday, barrister Ernest Ng, representing the Cheung Chau resident, said his client wanted Leung to retake his oath following the top legislature’s interpretation.

But Yu claimed that Leung’s omission of the words “Hong Kong” was not important.

He played down the significance of the omission and said the solemnity and sincerity of Leung’s vow was beyond question. “There is no effect on the meaning of the oath,” the lawyer said of the omission.

But Kwok stressed that Leung should retake his oath. “A mistake is a mistake,” he said outside court.

The retired civil servant said he could be bankrupted by legal costs if he lost the present case.

Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung reserved his judgment.