Basic Law

We’ll see if Beijing’s Basic Law ruling affects other Hong Kong lawmakers, chief secretary says

Carrie Lam tells special Legco meeting government reserves right to act on all matters relating to the oath interpretation as pan-democrats decry her remarks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 2:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 2:31pm

It remains unclear whether Hong Kong lawmakers apart from the two Youngspiration localists will be affected by Beijing’s intervention in the city’s oath controversy as local officials say they are studying the ruling to see if any follow-up action is needed.

Speaking at a special house committee meeting in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government would reserve its right to act on all matters regarding the validity of lawmakers’ oaths.

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“Answering the lawmakers’ questions here doesn’t mean I have accepted their status,” Lam said, adding she would address localist lawmaker Lau Siu-lai as “councillor” for now but would reserve the right to use a different term.

Lau’s first oath last month was invalidated because of pausing some six seconds between each word she recited. She was eventually sworn in last Wednesday.

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Lam’s remarks came after a number of lawmakers asked whether colleagues who had either chanted slogans or brought props when they were sworn in would be affected by the Basic Law ruling delivered Monday by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. The NPCSC said that lawmakers and public officials must read out their prescribed oaths “sincerely, accurately and completely”.

Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, both of pro-independence party Youngspiration, are set to be disqualified by the ruling.

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When asked on Tuesday if the Hong Kong government would mount judicial reviews over other lawmakers whose oaths might not have complied with the NPCSC’s interpretation, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the government would study whether any follow-up action was to be taken.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said the government should not challenge the status of such lawmakers, stating they were returned by tens of thousands of voters and had simply included political demands in their oaths.

Lam himself added a phrase after his oath last month calling on the chief executive to step down.

Watch: Hong Kong’s leader supports Basic Law ruling

Demosisto lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung described the chief secretary’s remarks on Wednesday as “worse than profanity” and said they failed to respect the mandate of directly-elected lawmakers.

“It’s a joke,” he said.

The chief secretary remained tight-lipped on whether more pro-democracy lawmakers, such as “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, would be affected by Beijing’s interpretation.

“The government is studying the possible impact of the interpretation on other lawmakers,” she said.

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Meanwhile, Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu said legal cases that had been heard by the Court of Final Appeal would definitely not be revisited.

She was responding to the interpretation’s possible retroactive effect during an appearance on an RTHK programme on Wednesday.

But she implied that a pending High Court judgment on the validity of Yau and Leung’s oaths would be affected.

“Those [cases] that have not reached the Court of Final Appeal must be handled according to the interpretation,” she said.

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Tam, a local deputy to the National People’s Congress, also believed the issue of Hong Kong independence would not be resolved simply by an interpretation from Beijing and said she anticipated “street clashes” in the near future.

But retired judge and Hong Kong chief executive aspirant Woo Kwok-hing said whether the interpretation could be applied retroactively was irrelevant to a case reaching Hong Kong’s top court.

“As long as a case has yet to go to trial or is pending appeal, a ruling must be handled according to the interpretation,” he said.

As to suggestions that more pan-democratic lawmakers would lose their seats over their questionable oaths, Woo said the matter should be settled in court. But he insisted judges would only accept challenges based on reasonable grounds.

But former Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah called for a stop to the “witch-hunt” over oaths delivered by pan-democrats, saying the “magnifying glass” scrutiny would not improve the city’s political climate.

The barrister urged the Hong Kong government not to launch additional legal proceedings against lawmakers who might have violated Beijing’s ruling.