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Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Government could go after more lawmakers in oath-taking saga, Hong Kong justice minister says

Rimsky Yuen hints at further action after disqualification of two localists

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 2:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 11:44pm

A team of around 10 government lawyers from the Department of Justice is looking into possibly questionable oaths taken by pro-democracy lawmakers when they were sworn into Hong Kong’s legislature in October, according to sources.

This came as Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung hinted on Thursday that more lawmakers who might not have taken their oaths properly could face court action initiated by the government.

At this rate, with two localist lawmakers already disqualified, and a third facing similar legal action, the government could end up with a pro-establishment majority in the directly elected half of the Legislative Council, making critical bills easier to pass.

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Sources told the Post that Justice Department lawyers from several teams – including those handling the Basic Law, judicial reviews and elections – were involved in the ongoing probe.

Asked if lawmakers Nathan Law Kwun-chung or Edward Yiu Chung-yim might be among the next judicial review targets, Yuen said government lawyers were “carefully studying” the recent judgments by the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal.

“We will decide what follow-up action to take in the next stage based on these judgments and the legal principles,” Yuen said.

The two courts have ruled that newly elected pro-independence lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang should be disqualified after they dedicated their oaths to a “Hong Kong nation” and insulted China.

While Law and Yiu were not as openly defiant as the Youngspiration duo while being sworn in, the legality of their oaths was also questioned by pro-establishment lawmakers.

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Law’s upward inflection when saying the word “republic”made “People’s Republic of China” sound like a question, while Yiu added his own words immediately after reciting his oath to call for “genuine universal suffrage”.

The government earlier confirmed it was planning legal action against localist lawmaker Lau Siu-lai, who read out her oath with six-second pauses between every word.

The justice minister insisted the number of legislative seats held by different camps was not a consideration for his department when deciding whether to launch further judicial reviews.

“There is no political motive, let alone getting any advantage in the Legislative Council through our [legal] action,” Yuen said.

He also suggested it was time for Hongkongers to focus on the second half of the “one country, two systems” policy, after Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law to tackle the oath-taking row.

It remains unclear if the Youngspiration pair, whose legislative seat vacancies may be gazetted on Monday at the earliest, will take their case all the way to the city’s top court.