Government should be careful what it wishes for in move against radical legislators

If the administration succeeds in forcing four more out of office, it may simply be opening the door wider for the opposition

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 December, 2016, 2:06am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 December, 2016, 2:06am

The Leung Chun-ying government is taking a leaf from Singapore’s legal playbook: sue them and bury them in legal fees. After its quick court victory against the ever clueless Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, it is gunning for four more radicals in the legislature.

The government case against Yau and Leung has succeeded beyond expectations. Not only have they been disqualified as lawmakers, they have also accumulated millions in legal costs and debts. Unless some good Samaritan comes forward, both face personal bankruptcy. That’s not a good place to be in when you have never held down a real job.

Localists Lau Siu-lai and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, and pan-democrats Edward Yiu Chung-yim and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, are in the government’s crosshairs. All four have already been sworn in as legislators. Officials may be letting easy victories go to their heads.

There was public support for the government actions against Baggio Leung and Yau, who clearly crossed the line with their insults to the Chinese nation during their oath-taking as well as with their subsequent inane pronouncements and noisy disruptions of Legco meetings.

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

But Lau, Law, Long Hair and Yiu have not gone to such extremes. The judicial reviews against so many anti-government lawmakers are looking like a witch hunt. That may not be a bad thing for CY. His hawkish move will appeal to the hardline President Xi Jinping. That could boost his chances of winning Beijing’s support for a second term.

The Leung government is taking a huge risk, though. Suppose it succeeded in dislodging all of them from Legco. That would mean by-elections for five geographical seats and one functional constituency. As all the credible localist or secessionist candidates have been, or will be, disqualified from running in the by-elections, pan-democratic candidates are likely to win most if not all five directly elected seats. They could then claim a strong public mandate and sell it as a “referendum” against the Hong Kong and central governments.

Can loyalist groups like the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong be depended on to win some of those five seats from the pan-dems? It’s a risky proposition.

Localist politicians are already portraying themselves as victims of persecution rather than losers because of their own follies. The extremism of their movement can only get worse.