My Take

There’s no method to this madness

Rather than inviting Beijing to step in, localist lawmakers involved in oath-taking saga should have been advised to resign and trigger a by-election

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 1:39am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 1:39am

Suddenly, everyone is a constitutional expert. I will leave the full legal implications of the latest interpretation by the nation’s parliament to those learned souls. Not a few of them belong to that party of barristers, the Civic Party.

Its members, lawmakers Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, rounded on Beijing and the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress yesterday. Maybe their criticism is right, maybe not. Maybe the NPC interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law really is more harmful than beneficial. I am no lawyer so I can’t argue with them.

China’s top body lays down law on Hong Kong oath-taking

I do find it ironic, though, that they should be the ones to complain. They and their party have done more than anyone to goad on those two star-crossed lawmakers-elect, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching of the party Youngspiration, thereby provoking the NPC’s heavy-handed response.

The whole thing might have been avoided if there had been fewer lawyers and more proper politicians at the Civic Party who could think a few steps ahead – instead of forever reacting to faits accomplis.

Instead of going out of their way to encourage Leung and Yau in the two’s offensive and pointless disruptions of the Legislative Council, they and other pan-democrats should have convinced them to resign.

That would automatically trigger a by-election, which they could claim to be another de facto referendum on their cause. It would also undermine any rationale for the government to persist with its judicial review and for the central government to launch an NPC interpretation.

Two Hong Kong localists down, and two more at risk after Beijing ruling

There has also been a precedent, set by five pan-democrat lawmakers’ resignations in 2010, who were then re-elected. Of course, the government plugged the loophole with an amendment in 2012 that disqualifies any lawmaker from running in a by-election within six months of them resigning. But there would be no shortage of other localist candidates to take the places of Leung and Yau in any by-election.

Alvin Yeung yesterday warned pro-establishment lawmakers not to think they could just pick up the soon-to-be vacated seats left by Leung and Yau. If only he had thought of triggering a by-election earlier and helped avoid the intervention by the NPC.

It’s true Leung and Yau might have refused to resign, but then they might not have. The NPC’s Standing Committee might have produced an interpretation anyway, even if the pair had resigned, but then it might not have. Now it’s too late, and we are faced with a by-election anyway.