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Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Hong Kong’s legislature in total gridlock as pro-establishment walkout leaves localists unable to retake oaths

Youngspiration pair Sixtus Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-Ching said they would not bow to demands for an apology

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 11:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 11:01am

Two pro-independence lawmakers were unable to retake their oaths yesterday after their pro-establishment rivals forced the session to be aborted by ­walking out, plunging the Legislative Council into further paralysis and uncertainty at the beginning of its new term.

In denying the localists a second chance to be sworn in, after they insulted China and referred to Hong Kong as a “nation” when they modified their oaths last week, pro-establishment politicians were hailed yesterday as “lawmakers who love the country and love Hong Kong” by state news agency Xinhua.

But their political opponents accused them of siding with the administration in letting it interfere in the legislature’s operation – using, in an ironic role reversal, the same tactics that the pan-democrats are known for.

Watch: The Legco walkout drama

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung dismissed ­accusations that the government had damaged the separation of powers by mounting a legal challenge the night before the Legco meeting to bar the localists from retaking their oaths.

Yuen denied the possibility of Beijing being behind the legal ­action, and stressed there was no plan to seek the highly controversial option of going beyond local courts to ask the national legislature to interpret the Basic Law.

Pro-establishment legislators said their walkout was targeted at Youngspiration’s Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who caused offence by ­pronouncing China as “Chee-na” in their oaths last Wednesday, using what sounded like the ­derogatory term “Shina” that Japan employed during war time.

“Our action was in response to many Hong Kong residents and Chinese all around the world who were angered,” said Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. “We cannot allow those who insult Chinese to retake the oath with no remorse.”

Another localist lawmaker, Lau Siu-lai, became collateral damage as the session ended ­before she could retake her oath.

The High Court on Tuesday night rejected the government’s last-minute application for an interim injunction to stop the two localists from retaking their oaths.

But the court allowed the ­administration to seek a judicial review of Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s decision to hold a second swearing-in ­session, for which a hearing will be held on November 3.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho said his camp would do everything possible to shut out the localist pair, including tabling a motion to have the next swearing-in session put on hold until the court ruled on the legality of allowing them to retake their oaths.

But that will be difficult to achieve because such a motion will need the democratic camp’s support to pass, raising the prospect of ­further chaos in Legco.

The drama in the chamber took all of 19 minutes yesterday.

Just as the Youngspiration pair were set to retake their vows, the DAB’s Gary Chan made a quorum call to check if at least half of the 70 lawmakers were present.

As the bell rang for 15 minutes, all pro-establishment lawmakers walked out, leaving only the 29 members of the opposing camp behind and prompting the Legco president to adjourn the meeting to next Wednesday.

The Youngspiration pair said they would not bow to demands for an apology.

“We bear the expectations of tens of thousands of voters. If we apologise so easily, it means we cannot live up to their expectations,” Yau said.

Baggio Leung added: “If any legislator ... could be obstructed by the pro-Beijing majority ... to discuss politics and express their views with such measures, then what’s the point of the election?”

About 300 protesters outside Legco cheered after the walkout, and called the two localists “dogs”.

The Legco president said it was “unfortunate” he had to ­adjourn the meeting, but added “we are far from a constitutional crisis”.

Andrew Leung insisted he had the constitutional duty to let the duly-elected localists perform their duties, but noted that the pro-establishment camp also had the right to express their views by leaving their seats.

With oath-taking incomplete, the new Legco is unlikely to ­deal with any bills or other matters.

Separately, Foreign Ministry commissioner Song Zhe dismissed the argument for self-determination held by some Hongkongers as “confused and misleading” and “in no one’s interest”.