My Take

Boris Johnson should understand sanctity of oaths

British foreign secretary himself pledged allegiance to the monarch yet criticises Hong Kong for throwing out two miscreant lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 2:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 2:23am

Why is Boris Johnson worried about the Legislative Council oath saga from last year? Writing in a British government report on Hong Kong, the foreign secretary has expressed concern about the Legco row that saw localist lawmakers-elect Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching being disqualified from taking their seats.

As a Tory, Johnson should have understood perfectly well why they were kicked out of Legco – for refusing to swear according to the legal oath of office, for declaring Hong Kong’s independence, and for insulting the Chinese nation. They went on to disrupt Legco meetings for three weeks.

British members of parliament are required to swear or affirm allegiance to the monarch and her heirs and successors. Otherwise, they can’t take their seats or use any parliamentary facilities.

At least Legco members-elect are not required to declare loyalty to the president of China, the central government or even the Chinese nation; they only need to bear allegiance to the Basic Law – the city’s mini-constitution – and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Those two Youngspiration miscreants and several others refused to meet even this minimal requirement of oath.

Beijing slams UK report which says Legco elections saga and oath row damaged confidence in ‘one country, two systems’

Meanwhile, Johnson’s report casts doubt on an interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on the validity of the Legco oath. The authority and legitimacy of the Standing Committee to interpret the Basic Law is unrivalled and unquestioned, even by the Court of Final Appeal … even by the British government. In fact, Johnson’s report itself admits as much. “We did not question the right of the Standing Committee to issue this interpretation, but were concerned about the timing of its release before the conclusion of judicial proceedings,” he wrote.

But that’s a moot point. In the Court of First Instance judgment that disqualified the pair, the judge explicitly said it was made without the need to refer to the Standing Committee’s interpretation. That judgment was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Unlike the Chinese foreign ministry, I think the Brits do have a legitimate interest in the welfare of Hong Kong people. But instead of expressing misguided concerns, Johnson and his British colleagues should acknowledge that authorities on both sides of the border were upholding the principle of “one country, two systems” by fighting and rejecting those lawmakers-elect who fully intended to breach the Basic Law and violate the spirit of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.