Beijing worried about Legco oath saga and wants ‘clear bottom line’ on Basic Law, ex-Hong Kong lawmaker claims
Ronny Tong Ka-wah fears ‘highly concerned’ mainland officials could seize chance to interpret city’s mini-constitution
Beijing officials are “highly concerned” about the oath-swearing controversy paralysing Hong Kong’s legislature and feel the need to draw a “clear bottom line” on how the Basic Law should be interpreted in the city, a former local lawmaker said after visiting the Chinese capital.
Ronny Tong Ka-wah joined a delegation last week from Hong Kong’s Bar Association to meet Beijing officials including Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei and director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Wang Guangya.
The comments from Tong, a former chairman of the association, contrasted with those of current chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi. Tam said earlier after meeting the officials that she believed they had not thought about interpreting the Basic Law.
Tong, a moderate politician and convenor of the think tank Path of Democracy, said he told the officials he thought there was no need for the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s parliament, to interpret Hong Kong’s Basic Law in the matter involving a pair of newly elected anti-mainland lawmakers whose oaths of office on October 12 were ruled invalid.
“The situation at present is that some people do not accept the Basic Law,” Tong said on an RTHK programme on Monday. “It’s not that they do not understand the Basic Law. There is no need (for the committee) to interpret the Basic Law.”
He was referring to Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who angered mainland and local 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.
Tong said after meeting the officials he had the impression they did not see the controversy as an issue of whether or not the Basic Law was understood. Rather, he said, Beijing felt the need to draw a “clear bottom line” on how the city’s mini-constitution should be interpreted.
He was worried the committee would take the initiative to interpret sections of the Basic Law touching on the oath-swearing saga. Tong said he told the officials he met that Hong Kong had a sound judiciary system capable of handling the matter on its own.
The former lawmaker described the officials addressing the issue as more cautious than they had been in past meetings. “They were very careful this time in terms of what they said,” he remarked. “It was unlike previous meetings.”
Local officials last week took the unprecedented step of mounting a legal challenge to disqualify Leung and Yau on grounds they had contravened the Basic Law during their swearing in.
Meanwhile, Tong said the officials offered no comments on Hong Kong’s chief executive election slated for March next year.
Watch: Hong Kong Legislative Council standoff over oaths
“They said nothing this time,” he said. “In the past, we would discuss who’s most capable and which candidates the pan-democrats would accept.”
He feared Beijing would now back a tough candidate for Hong Kong’s top job because of the oath-swearing row and growing calls for pro-independence in the city.