Legislative Council

Legco president goes from villain to accidental hero in one week

Andrew Leung puts himself at odds with the government by supporting the rights of two lawmakers who opposed his presidency

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 9:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 11:40pm

The Legislative Council’s new president, Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, has become an accidental hero – or victim, some might say.

Either way, the spotlight is on the pro-establishment lawmaker who now appears to be protecting the election mandates of the very people who so vehemently opposed his presidency, even if it puts him at odds with the government.

Having barely started his new job, Leung is now handling a hot potato of a walkout staged by his own pro-establishment colleagues on Wednesday to counter his decision to allow two incoming separatist councillors to retake the oaths they controversially modified in the first council meeting last week.

The only thing Andrew Leung needs to care about is to strictly follow the rules of procedure
Andrew Wong Wang-fat, former Legco president

While Leung spoke of being in “a lonely job” with “no friends”, Andrew Wong Wang-fat, the last Legco president during British colonial rule, gave his thumbs up to Leung’s performance – at least for how he had handled the swearing-in dilemma so far.

“His rivals would certainly raise a lot of criticisms. But the only thing Andrew Leung needs to care about is to strictly follow the rules of procedure,” Wong said.

“He has the power to administer councillors’ retaking of oath. And in the absence of a quorum, a meeting cannot proceed.”

Just as his political rivals were taking him to task over his British citizenship, which Leung had to renounce as the head of the legislature, he was thrust into the spotlight on Tuesday. That was when he invalidated the oaths taken by Youngspiration duo Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching because of their anti-China actions, but decided they should be allowed to retake their oaths.

This has put a spanner in the works for the government, which is challenging his decision in court as it seeks to have the pair kicked out of Legco, sparking concerns about the executive branch “interfering” with the legislature.

Leung sought to play it down, saying: “We are far from a constitutional crisis.”

While refusing to comment on the court case, Leung defended his decision: “Although I did not approve the behaviour of the two members during the oath-taking, and I have also ruled their oath invalid, they are duly elected. And as the Legco president, I have a constitutional duty to safeguard their rights to fulfil their duties as Legco members.”

Leung had to adjourn yesterday’s meeting when pro-establishment legislators walked out to prevent a quorum needed to swear them in again.

He did not criticise his political allies for forcing the meeting to be aborted, only describing it as “unfortunate”. “I know that there are different views in society regarding the behaviour of the two [localists]. And legislators have their right to express their views. They chose to express theirs by leaving their seats.”