Disqualified Hong Kong lawmakers launch appeal bid to regain Legco seats
Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai say High Court judge erred in thinking they had declined to take their oaths
Two deposed pro-democracy lawmakers argued that a High Court judge got it wrong when he ordered they be booted from the Legislative Council chamber, as they filed appeals on Monday in a bid to reclaim their seats.
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai said it was an error to think they had declined to take their oaths, which Leung swore whilst holding the pro-democracy symbol of a yellow umbrella, and Lau punctuated with deliberately long pauses.
Their applications came soon after the Court of Final Appeal upheld two lower courts’ decisions on a separate but similar unseating of two pro-independence lawmakers. The judges found that Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching had wilfully and manifestly declined to take their oaths.
Leung Kwok-hung and Lau announced their plans to appeal last Friday. The city’s pan-democratic camp promised to raise HK$4.48 million to cover Lau’s costs. Leung was granted government legal aid for his appeal.
Speaking outside the High Court on Monday, Leung urged the Court of Appeal judges to uphold justice.
“Now is the time for the judicial sector to stand up for Hongkongers,” he said.
Lau said Hongkongers must stay united, as “the autocratic government had suppressed” lawmakers by launching legal battles to disqualify them.
Leung and Lau, originally elected in New Territories East and Kowloon West respectively, were booted from Legco in July along with Edward Yiu Chung-yim and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, who both decided not to appeal.
Law is now in prison, for his part in an illegal assembly in 2014.
The Court of First Instance disqualified six lawmakers, after the previous administration – led by then chief executive Leung Chun-ying – challenged the oaths they gave while swearing-in last October.
During the oath-taking ceremony, Baggio Leung and Yau, also elected in New Territories East and Kowloon West respectively, pledged allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation”, while several others chanted slogans before or after their oath.
Those antics prompted Beijing’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to issue an interpretation of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, making “insincere” oath-taking punishable by instant disqualification.
Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung had previously remarked that Lau had not met the requirement of believing what she was saying. The court heard the university lecturer spent eight minutes delivering her oath, pausing five to seven seconds between every word; and later said in a Facebook post that she did so to “manifest the falsehood of the oath”.
The judge also found that Leung Kwok-hung had been insufficiently solemn and had not complied with the oath’s exact form and content.
He was told that Leung wore a black T-shirt with the words “civil disobedience” printed on it. Leung also held up a yellow umbrella – a symbol of 2014’s pro-democracy Occupy protests – with the words “end one party rule” written on it. He chanted slogans to ask Leung Chun-ying to step down and demand democracy, and also paused frequently between words and phrases.
Lau argued in her notice of appeal that the judge had made a series of mistakes in disqualifying her, such as erring “in law … in determining what constitutes to ‘decline’ or ‘neglect’” in oath-taking under the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance.
In Leung’s submission, his lawyer argued that “the judge erred in law in holding that the [NPCSC’s] interpretation was relevant and applicable to the oath-taking ceremony”.
On Friday, Leung admitted that their appeal bid was in part intended to help pan-democrats win all six seats vacated by disqualified lawmakers.
If all six are contested in by-elections at the same time, including the two each from New Territories East and Kowloon West, then the bloc will almost certainly lose a seat in both of those spots, because of the proportional voting system.
With Lau and Leung Kwok-hung appealing, the government will be expected to hold by-elections to fill the other four, which are all in different constituencies, first, with the other two filled later.