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Hong Kong localism and independence

Hong Kong pro-establishment legislators plan fresh drive to block oath taking

Pro-government bloc targets delaying tactics to stop two localists from being sworn in on Wednesday in a move reminiscent of pan-democratic tactics

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 4:58pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 11:01am

Hong Kong’s deeply divided legislature is heading for another major showdown this week, with pro-establishment forces planning to adopt their political opponents’ trademark delaying tactics to prevent two localist lawmakers from retaking their oaths.

Their unprecedented action plan was revealed on Sunday as top officials and the government’s political allies said the administration was justified in taking legal action to stop the pair from retaking their oaths after they insulted China during the swearing in of legislative councillors earlier this month.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor defended the move to seek a judicial review of Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s decision to give Youngspiration’s Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching another chance on Wednesday.

The court hearing is scheduled for November 3, and pro-establishment lawmakers are going all out to prevent the oath taking until a ruling is made.

But they have a “plan B” if Andrew Leung refuses their request to put the swearing in on hold, according to New People’s Party lawmaker and executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.

“We could move a motion to object to the president’s decision to give them a second chance,” she said on Sunday, adding that the motion could be “debated for weeks” to “indirectly block” the pair from retaking their oaths.

Article 18 of Legco’s rules of procedure stipulates that oathtaking should be the first item on the agenda at council meetings. To enable Ip’s plan to swing into action, the legislature will first have to pass a motion to suspend the rule.

The No 2 government official suggested the nature of a walkout by pro-establishment lawmakers last Wednesday to prevent a second swearing-in session was not the same as those mounted by pan-democrats in the past.

“[I] will leave it to society to judge whether it is appropriate,” Lam said, adding the public was unlikely to trust those who would not even take their oaths properly.

Meanwhile, an alliance of two dozen pro-Beijing groups is planning a 10,000-strong rally outside the Legco complex on Wednesday to condemn the localists.

Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, who attended a forum organised by Ip’s think tank on Sunday, accused the government and its allies of “double standards” after their condemnation of pan-democrats employing similar tactics in the past. Making Andrew Leung bow to pressure would set a very bad precedent, Lau warned.

Andrew Leung appears to be facing isolation among his own allies over the row, as even his own party members pressure him to block the localists.

In a column he wrote for pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao, Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung urged Leung not to give the pair a second chance and reminded the Legco president of his power to make such a decision.

Basic Law Committee member and constitutional law expert Albert Chen Hung-yee did not see the government’s legal challenge as a danger to the separation of powers that the city arguably enjoys, but he said it could lead to Beijing demanding Hong Kong enact national security legislation as the two lawmakers had upset the status quo by actively promoting the city’s secession.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah called for greater tolerance, warning that all Hongkongers would pay a heavy price if people holding opposing views continued to go to extremes.