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Legislative Council elections 2016

Hong Kong lawmakers warned to stick to exact wording of their oaths at first Legislative Council meeting

Warning from Legco secretariat comes as some localists plan to add to the affirmations they take

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 8:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 11:03am

Lawmakers-elect should read the Legislative Council oath without change in order to be sworn in, the Legco secretariat has warned as some localist members were planning to read their own versions to state their political views at next month’s inaugural meeting.

The secretariat said in a media briefing on Tuesday that lawmakers could not add or subtract words from the affirmation.

“The court judgment in 2004 stated clearly that oath-taking was a very strict process under the Basic Law,” a secretariat officer said. “It is the constitutional duty for lawmakers to be sworn in in accordance with the law – to follow it word for word.”

Asked if a lawmaker advocated Hong Kong independence or nation building right before or after the oath, the secretariat said it would have to determine the validity of the oath case by case.

The officer was referring to the court ruling in 2004 that “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung was not allowed to swear allegiance to the people of Hong Kong and the mainland and to fight for democracy, in addition to the legal requirements in the oath of upholding the Basic Law and bearing allegiance to Hong Kong. Leung later got round the rule by adding his own words before and after the affirmation.

At least two localists have said they will come up with their own distinct ways of taking the oath in the first council meeting on October 12.

Demosisto’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung, who advocates self-determination for the city, said he planned to do more than simply follow the script, but had not decided exactly how to do it.

Despite the Legco secretariat’s warning, Law said he was not worried about running into problems when taking the oath.

“In the past, if there’s a problem, [the legislator] would simply need to re-read the oath,” he said.

Youngspiration’s Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang, who is sympathetic towards the idea of Hong Kong independence, said earlier he would wear some distinctive accessories and make symbolic gestures to show his disagreement with the oath. He also said he might add: “I vow to you, Hong Kong people”.

The secretariat was also asked whether lawmakers advocating independence at Legco meetings were protected by privilege under Article 77 of the Basic Law, which says they are immune from legal action over their statements during council meetings.

The secretariat did not give a direct answer, but drew attention to Article 79, which says a lawmaker can be censured for breach of oath by a vote of two-thirds of members present.

But with the pro-establishment camp controlling fewer than two-thirds of the seats, such censure is unlikely.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was asked on Tuesday to comment on recent lawmakers’ remarks that they had had exchanges with Beijing’s liaison office on the new Legco president. Leung said elections were conducted in total accordance with Hong Kong’s electoral system and laws.