Basic Law

Warning goes out against banning more Hong Kong lawmakers

Member of pro-establishment camp and legal scholars fear such action could backfire in wake of Beijing move

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 11:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 11:33pm

The government was warned on Tuesday it would be unwise to disqualify more lawmakers in the wake of the interpretation announced by Beijing.

It came a day after the central government effectively banned two directly elected pro-independence lawmakers, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching of Youngspiration, from the Legislative Council in the wake of the oath-taking row.

Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei said lawmakers and public officials must read out the prescribed oath “sincerely”, and “accurately and completely”.

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Furthermore, Zhang Rongshun, vice chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said an oath should be invalidated if a person deliberately violates or blasphemes with his behaviour, speeches, clothing or props.

The move has sparked concern as to whether at least 10 pro-democracy lawmakers, who have either brought banners, paused deliberately or chanted slogans before or after taking the oath, would be barred.

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“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, for instance, held up a yellow umbrella – a symbol of the 2014 Occupy protests. He also chanted slogans and tore up a piece of cardboard, which symbolised the political reform blueprint decreed by Beijing.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, feared the “all-encompassing decision” would become a tool to exercise political screening.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said it would be unwise for the government to make use of the interpretation to disqualify lawmakers who had used props or chanted slogans during oath-taking.

“Their oaths have already been validated. It would give the public a bad impression that the government has spared no effort to ban the [pro-democracy camp],” he said. “I would not rule out the fact that someone would file a legal challenge against these lawmakers but our camp has not discussed on it.”

Political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung, of Chinese University, agreed. “Sixtus Leung and Yau have not won much sympathy from the public, but if the saga is extended to other pro-democracy lawmakers, it would spark a huge public outcry,” he said.

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When asked whether the government would launch any legal challenges against other lawmakers on the oaths issue, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the administration would act in accordance with law.

“We would see if there is any follow-up for the government to do after studying the interpretation of Basic Law handed down by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee,” he said.

However, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po angered some lawmakers with his comments on the validity of oaths when attending a panel meeting.

“I’m here answering lawmakers’ questions, but that doesn’t mean the government has accepted the oaths to be valid. It would reserve all legal rights,” he said at the meeting, which the two localists were due to attend.

Several members of the pro-democrat camp voiced their discontent at his comments, with some demanding him to apologise and clearly explain what kind of legal rights the government was reserving.