Legislative Council of Hong Kong

No need for Beijing to intervene over Hong Kong’s oath saga, Basic Law Committee chairman says

Li Fei was quoted as saying that Hong Kong had the necessary legal framework to handle the row over oath-taking in the Legislative Council

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 October, 2016, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 11:01am

A top Beijing official has said that there was no need for the national parliament to interpret Hong Kong’s Basic Law after the city’s government clashed with the legislature over whether to allow a pair of anti-China lawmakers to take a fresh oath of office.

The comments by Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei, who was speaking to a visiting delegation from the city’s Bar Association in Beijing on Thursday, echoed those by Beijing-friendly political heavyweight Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai earlier in the day, and Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung on Wednesday.

Association chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi quoted Li as saying that Hong Kong had the required legal framework to handle the row over oath-taking in the Legislative Council.

“We know that there was worry [about the Basic Law interpretation] in society. We wanted to know if there was any indication from him. After hearing what he said, we all think that he had never thought about that,” Tam said.

Li was also of the opinion that the judiciary system in Hong Kong was able to resolve the issue, Tam said.

Fan, a former Legislative Council president and a member of the National People’s Congress standing committee, also came to the government’s defence over its application for a judicial review of the Legco president’s decision to allow the two lawmakers to retake the oath. The move would not undermine the city’s separation of powers since such a system did not even exist under its mini-constitution, she said.

Fan waded into the debate as the two pro-independence, anti-China lawmakers who were obstructed from retaking their oath by pro-establishment politicians this week remained unapologetic and even combative towards their own supporters.

Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching angered Chinese and Hong Kong officials by declaring allegiance to “the Hong Kong nation” and pronouncing China as “Chee-na”, which sounded like the derogatory “Shina” used by Japan during the second world war.

The legal battle to disqualify them has sparked concerns as to whether Beijing may intervene through an interpretation of the Basic Law, possibly on what constitutes a valid oath.

But Fan said she had not heard about the NPC mulling over a Basic Law interpretation to resolve the oath-taking saga, nor did she find that necessary.

She pointed out that the separation of powers was not a constitutional reality, when asked if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had violated such a principle by legally challenging Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s decision to give the offending localists a second chance.

Without naming them, Fan criticised their “irresponsible” conduct.

“Some lawmakers took the oath childishly, insincerely and irresponsibly,” she said. “A human being should be prepared to be accountable [for] what he or she did.”

A poll released on Thursday showed that public opinion is nearly equally split over whether advocates of Hong Kong independence should be qualified as lawmakers.

Some 41.3 per cent said they should, while 40.9 per cent held the opposite view, leaving a significant 20 per cent unsure, according to a poll of 1,015 respondents conducted by Lingnan University’s public governance programme and commissioned by Future@Hong Kong group.

Some of the localists’ own supporters have been chastising the pair for “committing suicide”.