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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong government guns for lawmaker Lau Siu-lai in oath-taking controversy

Localist was sworn in on her second try after pausing between each word on her first attempt; chief executive earlier succeeded in unseating two Youngspiration lawmakers-elect

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 5:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 12:44pm

Hong Kong’s government has decided to take a third newly elected localist lawmaker to court after succeeding in having two others disqualified for failing to take their oaths of office properly.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice said it would initiate legal proceedings against Lau Siu-lai, even as Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang wait to learn on Wednesday the result of their appeal against disqualification.

Watch: Lau Siu-lai takes the oath in slow-motion

Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who gave Lau a chance to retake her oath after the first attempt was deemed inappropriate last month, was also named in the new case.

But the Justice Department stopped short of specifying what grounds it would use in the legal action. “It is not appropriate for us to provide further comments at this stage in view of possible proceedings,” the department said.

A letter from the department to the judiciary said it planned to lodge the case against Lau by the end of this week or early next week, following the appeal of the two localist lawmakers.

Yau and Baggio Leung lost their Legco seats after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung launched an unprecedented legal bid last month to have the two disqualified, and the High Court declared their oaths were invalid.

The two challenged the ruling at the Court of Appeal, which is due to hand down its judgment at 9.30am on Wednesday. The losing party is then expected to take the case to the Court of Final Appeal.

Lau, a university lecturer, raised eyebrows when she first took her oath on October 12 by deliberately pausing for six seconds between every word. She wrote later on Facebook that she had meant to render the oath meaningless.

But the Legco president accepted her second oath.

Senior Counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah said if the appellate court accepted the lower court’s ruling in Yau and Leung’s case on Wednesday, the principles set out within – that one should not wilfully decline or neglect to take an oath – could become a precedent in determining Lau’s case.

The pan-democratic camp was quick to criticise the government’s plan, saying it was effectively tampering with Legco’s inner workings and election results under the guise of legal proceedings.

“Leung Chun-ying’s goal is to use it to pave way for electioneering [for his chief executive bid],” Charles Mok, lawmaker for the information technology functional constituency, said.

Andrew Leung said he allowed Lau to take a second oath based on the best legal advice available at the time, and he would now leave it to the court to decide.

The two Youngspiration lawmakers were accused of making a mockery of their swearing-in ceremony by insulting China and displaying “Hong Kong is not China” banners.

It prompted the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to issue an interpretation of the city’s mini-constitution even before the High Court ruling, making it punishable by disqualification if oaths were not taken solemnly and sincerely.