Hong Kong lawmakers get in shouting match over election of Legco president
Priscilla Leung accuses James To of ‘misleading listeners’ on radio show
Two veteran lawyer-lawmakers sparred on Thursday over the chaotic proceedings of the previous day’s Legislative Council president election, which was dominated by questions about a candidate’s nationality.
But despite their differences, Democrat James To Kun-sun and Priscilla Leung Mei-fun of the pro-Beijing Business Professionals Alliance did agree that there was a need for the council secretariat to make clear the deadline by which candidates should renounce their foreign nationality.
Drama broke out in the Legco building on Wednesday as three localist and pan-democratic lawmakers’ oaths were declared invalid during the swearing-in ceremony, while pro-establishment stalwart Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen was elected council president despite lingering questions about his British nationality.
The Basic Law requires the Legco president be a Chinese citizen with no right of abode in any foreign country. In a major twist, Leung was finally able to produce a genuine copy of a declaration late in the day confirming he had given up his British nationality.
He eventually won the vote 38-0 after opposition camp lawmakers tore up their ballot sheets and stormed out of the chamber.
On Thursday, just minutes into a Commercial Radio segment, To and Priscilla Leung found themselves engaged in a shouting match over the documents Andrew Leung had produced regarding the renunciation of his British citizenship.
Priscilla Leung, who belongs to the same party as Andrew Leung, accused To of “misleading listeners” by claiming that Leung had not submitted any official documents to prove he had applied to turn down his British nationality.
But To, who was the democratic camp’s nominee for Legco president, hit back saying Andrew Leung had presented only photocopies and not true copies of the documents before the election proceedings began on Wednesday afternoon.
“He couldn’t show his proof of turning down his right of abode,” To said.
“It is only appropriate for [candidates for Legco president] to [declare their citizenship status] when handing in their application, because by that stage, if you run unopposed, you basically win by default.”
To said the Legco secretariat had the discretion to decide whether such documents were required for verification, and in this case, they did not exercise it.
Despite the heated exchange, Priscilla Leung agreed there was “room to discuss” when exactly a candidate had to drop his foreign nationality, though she did not think it had to take place as early as the application.
“I personally think a candidate can do it [any time before] he is selected as a candidate. He should have already met the Basic Law requirements by then,” she said.
“There should be some clear guidelines from the secretariat to avoid such disputes ... It is the secretariat’s job to verify the documents.”
Speaking on RTHK on Thursday, Andrew Leung said he was fortunate to have received the official document at the eleventh hour, and if members still had doubts, he had “nothing more to say”. He urged lawmakers to stop disrupting the legislature’s proceedings as it would further erode public trust in the council.