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Hong Kong localism and independence

‘Being young is not an excuse’: moderate former lawmaker criticises Hong Kong localists over oaths

Ronny Tong also blasts pan-democrats for handling of controversy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 October, 2016, 2:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 11:01am

The previous Legislative Council president warned that if any ­incoming lawmakers fail to properly take their members’ oath when retaking it this week they could be breaking the law and could even lose their seats.

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing was referring to Youngspiration’s Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, whose oaths Legco secretary general Kenneth Chen Wei-on invalidated last week.

During last week’s inaugural Legco meeting, Leung and Yau pronounced China as “Chee-na”, a variation of the derogatory “Shina” used by Japan during the second world war. Yiu modified the oath by adding his own phases.

The trio are due to retake their oaths on Wednesday in front of new president, Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, and Tsang said on Sunday that any legislators who lead the president to believe they are neglecting the oath on purpose would be breaking the law and would need to resign.

Moderate Hong Kong politician Ronny Tong Ka-wah, convenor of think tank Path of Democracy, criticised the Youngspiration pair’s actions last week.

Whichever way you look at the matter, whether it’s political, ethical or legal, it’s not acceptable
Ronny Tong Ka-wah, Path of Democracy

“I was very angry and saddened when I heard what they said,” the former Civic Party lawmaker said in a radio programme. “Whichever way you look at the matter, whether it’s political, ethical or legal, it’s not acceptable.”

Leung and Yau defended their actions, with Leung claiming he mispronounced the country’s name due to his “Ap Lei Chau accent”.

But Tong dismissed the explanation, saying what they did was clearly intentional.

“I don’t respect anyone who can’t own up to what they do,” he said. “And being young is not an excuse ... I think some people are too tolerant towards youngsters.”

The city government and Beijing’s liaison office have both condemned the duo’s words and actions.

Tong also criticised the pan-democratic camp for being ambiguous in comments on the incident.

“As the pro-democracy camp, if you don’t even have the courage to point out right from wrong on major issues, how can you represent Hongkongers to fight for better lives?” asked Tong, himself a former pan-democrat.

At a forum on Sunday, Baggio Leung maintained he did not change any aspects of the oath.

“We read out every single word [in it],” he said. Yau could not be reached for comment.

While the Youngspiration pair read out their oaths, they also displayed a banner bearing the slogan: “Hong Kong is not China”.

The Legco secretary general said at the time the banner gave him reasons to doubt whether they understood the oath.

But Leung said: “How does my banner contradict the meaning of the oath? The slogan is merely a fact. ‘Hong Kong is not China’ is just like [saying] ‘an apple is not an orange’.”

In the same forum, pro-Beijing legislator Dr Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said the Youngspiration legislators should be disqualified if they do not take the oath properly on Wednesday.

“Just like at a wedding ceremony, if you hold up a banner saying ‘as if’ while saying ‘I will love you for the rest of my life’… others can see that you are not sincere,” she said.

Meanwhile, a survey of 2,345 educators by the Beijing-loyalist group Education Convergence found that around 80 per cent of participants believed the Youngspiration pair should resign over the issue. Some 95 per cent also thought their actions didn’t represent youngsters in the city, while around 65 per cent demanded the duo apologise.

Ho Hon-kuen, vice-chairman of the group, said: “They should apologise at the very least. If not we will demand they resign.”

Pro-Beijing volunteer Ivan Mok Ka-kit has organised a rally against Yau and Leung for Wednesday, when they swear in again. An online petition against the pair had secured 72,000 signatures by Sunday.