Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong Legco localists take almost HK$1 million each in salary and expenses, despite not being sworn in

Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching have been unable to take their members’ oaths since anti-China slurs first time around

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 11:31pm

The controversy over the two localist lawmakers who insulted China in their members’ oaths has extended to the cost of the saga, with the Legislative Council revealing they each took almost a million dollars in salary and expenses to the end of October.

Rival camps clashed on whether Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang should be paid before their oaths are confirmed. They also pointed fingers at each other on how two meetings had to be adjourned because of the saga, leading to complaints of wasted public money and farcical scenes in Legco.

Each hour in session at the legislature costs, on average, HK$216,000.

The Legco secretariat said both of the Youngspiration members advanced HK$834,393 in operating funds, entertainment and travel expenses, as well as IT and set-up costs.

Including their monthly salaries of HK$95,180 payable since October 1, they had each received HK$929,573 by the end of last month.

Beijing to interpret Basic Law over oath-taking saga

Legco figures show the average cost of each hour in session is HK$216,000.

On Monday, a university student applied for a judicial review to stop Legco paying salaries and benefits to Yau and Leung, as well as their fellow newcomer Lau Siu-lai, whom the Legco president allowed to retake the oath.

Yau defended the amount she received, saying all legislators had advanced operating funds, to set up offices and pay assistants’ salaries.

The Legco secretariat said Leung and Yau were paid their expenses in accordance with their guidelines, but the pro-establishment and pan-democrat camps clashed on whether the pair were entitled to the cash.

“Leung and Yau should be allowed to take their salaries as they are legislators elected by their voters. They are entitled to exercise their constitutional rights,” said Dennis Kwok, a Civic Party legislator. Kwok said the pair were legislators “unless and until the court rules that they are disqualified.”

But Holden Chow Ho-ding, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), disagreed.

Angry crowd demands oath pair quit Legco

“Though they are still so-called legislators, they cannot carry out their duties properly because they cannot attend meetings, which is why they should not be paid the salaries and expenses. It is taxpayers’ money, and they should not be allowed to take the oath again,” Chow said.

According to Legco rules, no council member can attend or vote in a meeting until he or she has taken the members’ oath.

Yet – though he was eventually barred from the adjourned Wednesday meeting – Baggio Leung had put in a question beforehand, for the chief secretary, about the Government Records Service.

Yau said she had put in one verbal and one written question, on election qualification and mainland licence plates in Hong Kong.

She also put in members’ motions calling for the government to set up a policy on youth and on a consultation about Chinese history teaching, she added.

The oaths Leung and Yau took during the first Legco meeting of the term were rejected after they pronounced China as “Chee-na”, which sounded like a derogatory term. The government then took the unprecedented step of a legal attempt to disqualify them for breaking the Basic Law.

They could not retake their oaths in the second meeting because their pro-establishment rivals walked out, forcing the session to be aborted.

Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen adjourned the third Legco meeting before it started, deciding – in a U-turn – not to let Leung and Yau pledge again.

Andrew Leung said he considered the situation out of control, after Yau and Baggio Leung forced their way into the chamber, despite being barred, with the help of some pan-democrats.

DAB’s Chow said: “They were delaying the agenda of Legco, even our party is suffering. Our DAB member Cheung Kwok-kwan had a motion on requiring Chinese history to be an independent subject at junior secondary schools. From the point of view of money, it is a big waste. They were wasting taxpayers’ money.”

Chow insisted any waste of taxpayers’ money as a result of the saga was chiefly caused by the localists, saying the pan-democrats who helped them should also take responsibility.

But Kwok said: “The president himself has to take all the blame, because he has made the decision to abort the oath-taking, and this is the consequence we have to all suffer.”