Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Think very carefully before allowing localists to retake oath, new head of Hong Kong’s legislature warned

Leading Beijing loyalists defend Andrew Leung’s right to make such decisions, but pressure him not to go ahead with another swearing-in ceremony for anti-China lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 October, 2016, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 11:01am

The recently retired head of Hong Kong’s legislature on Saturday cautioned his successor to consider the consequences of allowing two newly elected localist lawmakers to retake their oaths after they insulted China during the original swearing-in ceremony.

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and two other leading Beijing loyalists waded into the oath-taking row, justifying Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s right to make such a decision as the new Legislative Council president. Leung is under intense pressure from the pro-establishment camp to stop Youngspiration’s Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching from retaking their oaths when Legco holds its next session the coming Wednesday.

Pro-Beijing camp goes all out to stop retaking of oaths by Hong Kong localist legislators who insulted China

Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, Hong Kong’s sole representative in the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, also warned that Leung and Yau “would make the situation even worse” by attending a forum on the city’s localism movement in Taipei on Saturday.

Many took offence at the pair’s first swearing-in session when they pledged loyalty to “the Hong Kong nation” and pronounced China as “Chee-na”, which sounded like the derogatory “Shina” used by Japan during war time. The Legco president invalidated their vows but decided to give them a second chance, even as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying sought a judicial review to overturn Andrew Leung’s ruling.

While Tsang stressed that he would not tell his successor what to do, he cautioned Andrew Leung over the consequences. “If the president prevents two lawmakers from retaking their oaths now and the court rules against it in the future, the two lawmakers have only lost their right to join a few meetings,” he said in a TVB interview on Saturday.

“But if the court rules against it and disqualifies them later ... allowing them to take oaths in the first place might turn out to be abuse of power.

“The president also has to consider the fact that the pro-government camp is strongly against the decision and they may boycott the meeting.”

On Friday, 39 pro-government lawmakers urged Leung to impose an outright ban on swearing in the two localists, threatening to use all possible means to prevent it, including staging another walkout as they did on Wednesday.

But if the court rules against it and disqualified them later... allowing them to take oaths in the first place might have been an abuse of power
Jasper Tsang Yok-sing

Tsang cited Article 72 of the Basic Law and Clause 19 of Legco’s Rules of Procedure to argue that the president has the power to decide meeting agendas. Maria Tam Wai-chu, a Basic Law Committee member, agreed that Leung had the power to reshuffle the agenda in Legco to avoid further drama and another adjournment. “If I were Leung, I would not rush to place this item [oath-taking] on the agenda. Instead, I would wait for court decision first,” she said.

Some pro-establishment lawmakers have floated the idea that the president should invoke Clause 92 of the Rules of Procedure, which states that in any matter not provided for in the rules, the practice and procedure “may be decided by the president who may, if he thinks fit, be guided by the practice and procedure of other legislatures”.

The camp could thus suggest the president lift the usual order of business, with the oath issue in court.

Tam and Tsang backed the legal challenge by the government. Tsang said it could have faced huge political consequences if it had not taken action.