Legislative Council elections 2016

19 minutes of chaos: Legco president calls pro-establishment camp walkout ‘unfortunate’, plans new oaths for localists

Insufficient quorum ends tumultuous meeting as Legislative Council president defends his decision to reschedule swearing-in of Youngspiration pair

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 10:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 November, 2016, 11:01am

Key points today

> The Youngspiration members Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, along with fellow localist Lau Siu-lai, are now due to retake their oaths at a Legco meeting next week.

> But will they be able to be sworn in? Much depends on whether the pro-establishment camp will stage another walkout, which has yet to be determined.

> The Beijing-friendly lawmakers have taken control of this battle, although they risk taking the blame for paralysing Legco. The democratic camp lawmakers, in the minority, have their hands tied.

12.30pm – A word from the president

Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said it was “unfortunate” his colleagues chose to walk out and that he had no choice but to adjourn the meeting.

“I know that there are different views in society regarding the behaviour of the two [localists], and legislators have their right to express their views,” the veteran pro-establishment member said. “They chose to express their views by leaving their seats.”

Watch: the Legco walkout drama

Leung said he would not condemn the walkout. He added that lawmakers’ utmost duty was to attend meetings and that he would meet all his colleagues to resolve the matter.

He said the Youngspiration pair whose modified oaths kicked off the controversy would be scheduled to retake their oaths at a Legco meeting next week.

We are far from a constitutional crisis
Andrew Leung, after the Legco walkout

The Legco president said two of his colleagues in the pro-establishment camp had told him of the walkout plan 30 minutes before the meeting. He stressed he was unaware of the plan before then.

Leung insisted he had conducted the shortened meeting impartially. “As my predecessor [Jasper Tsang Yok-sing] said, being Legco president is a very lonely job,” he said, adding he had no regrets about his decision to let the Youngspiration pair retake their oaths.

He said he had a constitutional obligation to let the two popularly elected lawmakers perform their duties.

“We are far from a constitutional crisis,” he said. But he would not comment on the judicial review sought by the administration, saying he would only “concentrate on Legco matters”.

Leung also said he would not concern himself with speculation over government plans to seek an interpretation of the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress.

12.20pm – A blow to the city’s legal institutions?

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok, of the legal sector, said the walkout staged by the pro-establishment camp was a huge blow to the city’s rule of law, and disrespectful to the court system.

The collaboration of the government and pro-establishment camp proves that the legal challenge by the administration is a farce
Dennis Kwok, Civic Party

He noted a Hong Kong court had last night refused to grant an injunction preventing the Youngspiration lawmakers from retaking their oaths today.

“The collaboration of the government and pro-establishment camp [in launching the walkout] ... proves that the legal challenge by the administration is a farce,” he said. “How much do they want to sacrifice to achieve their political aims?”

Kwok asked whether the government and those loyal to Beijing would seek to push the national legislature to interpret the Basic Law.

Pan-democrats had originally planned to present a petition today setting up a select committee to investigate HK$50 million Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying received from Australian engineering firm UGL.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting accused the pro-establishment camp of helping the chief executive block the establishment of a select committee.

Meanwhile, localist Lau Siu-lai said she hoped to retake her oath next Wednesday, saying that was the plan as approved by Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.

11.50am – Scorn from the pan-democrats

Legco’s democratic caucus of lawmakers has strongly condemned the walkout staged by the Beijing-friendly lawmakers.

Camp convenor Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said the pro-establishment members “blatantly adjourned the meeting with the use of rules of procedures to block lawmakers from retaking their oaths”.

He accused them of abetting the government’s “unreasonable” legal challenge and destroying the city’s separation of powers.

“Lawmakers are returned by the citizens and a court refused to grant an injunction last night regarding the ruling by the Legco president,” he added.

To called the walkout unacceptable.

11.45am – Walkout explained

Speaking to media outside the chamber, Martin Liao Cheung-kong, convenor of the pro-establishment camp, dismissed claims of a coordinated walkout or of a U-turn leading to it.

When the idea was raised by Paul Tse Wai-chun, he said, several pro-establishment legislators disagreed with it.

Liao maintained that while individual members had expressed their opinion on the matter prior to today’s meeting, no coordinated agreement had been reached.

“There was no decision made,” he said. “Therefore there was no U-turn.”

Inside the chamber, Civic Passion’s Cheng Chung-tai could be seen turning the flags of China and Hong Kong, which DAB’s Lau Kwok-fan had brought in, upside down.

DAB’s Gary Chan Hak-kan said Cheng’s act was against the law.

“We reserve the right to take legal action,” he said.

11.30am – Jubilation outside Legco

Hundreds of protesters outside Legco broke into cheers after the walkout.

“Good news, good news,” they shouted, standing in the rain amid a sea of national flags. “Victory to Chinese people. Beat the dogs.”

They were referring to Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who last week pronounced China as “Chee-na” in their oaths, mimicking a derogatory Japanese pronunciation used during the second world war.

11.28 am – ‘We can’t let them insult China without an apology’

New People’s Party Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said she had had reservations about the walkout plan but decided to join after meeting with other pro-establishment lawmakers this morning.

“We can’t let them insult China without an apology,” she said.

Asked if the government’s legal action had hurt the separation of powers, the executive councillor said: “Hong Kong’s separation of powers is not as clear-cut as the American system. I don’t see any problem here.”

She added she had never heard of any government plan to seek an interpretation of the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress.

11.15am – 19 minutes of chaos

Legco descended into chaos soon after the pro-establishment camp walked out from the chamber when the council meeting started at 11am.

As the camp staged a united front before reporters explaining their move, pan-democratic lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung stood before them in protest and hurled luncheon meat at them.

Members of both camps pointed fingers and shouted at each other for more than 10 minutes.

The meeting officially adjourned at 11.19am due to insufficient quorum. Localist lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang were not able to retake their oaths.

11.15am – ‘Let them be stupid’

Localist Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang came out from the chamber. “Let them be stupid,” he said. “I won’t apologise.”

Yau Wai-ching echoed his sentiment, saying she hoped the meeting could resume so she could retake the oath. “The pro-Beijing camp says they are anti-filibustering but now they abort the meeting,” she said. “You can now see who really betrays Hong Kong.”

11.03am – Walkout carried out

As the pro-establishment lawmakers walk out of Legco, Gary Chan Hak-kan of the DAB asks the Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen to ring the quorum bell after his colleague Wong Ting-Kwong is sworn in. By that time, Edward Yiu Chung-yim, representative of the architecture sector, had already been sworn in.

The localists have not taken their oaths.

10.54am – Pro-establishment camp walkout?

Pro-establishment lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-Chun speaks before the meeting: “I hope lawmakers will support my idea of staging a walkout if [the localists] do not apologise and swear in genuinely.”

He says he is lobbying for support.

Another lawmaker in the same camp hints that the camp planned to walk out after the first lawmaker, Wong Ting-kwong of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, is sworn in.

10.50am – ‘We’re just enforcing the law’

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung insisted the Leung administration, as the executive branch of Hong Kong, had the responsibility to implement the Basic Law. He quoted Article 104 of the city’s mini-constitution as saying that members of the Legislative Council must swear to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the SAR and China.

He dismissed accusations that the move undermined the city’s separation of powers, arguing this was a constitutional and legal matter that needed to be resolved.

“If the views of the president of the Legislative Council differ from that of the executive branch, the most suitable way to handle the problem is to leave it to the courts,” Yuen added. “This is also a show of respect to the rule of law, and does not mean the executive branch disrespects the Legislative Council and its operation.”

10.10am – Separation of powers concern

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said he would raise an urgent question in the council meeting today regarding the government’s judicial review bid last night which he said had ruined the separation of powers.

Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen is to decide whether to allow the question to be asked when the council meeting starts at 11am.

Meanwhile, pro-establishment lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok, representing the engineering sector, was elected as the chairman of the public works subcommittee, while pan-democrat Charles Mok, of the information technology sector, was uncontested as the deputy.

Watch: pro-independence lawmakers battle Hong Kong leader in court

9.45am - ‘You will see’

While the lawmakers elected without incident the new chairman and deputy of the establishment sub-committee – New People’s Party’s Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu – the atmosphere inside Legco was notably tense.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun, who earlier called on his allies to stage a walkout in the council meeting unless the Youngspiration duo apologised for their behaviour, continued to make a last-ditch effort to lobby for the move.

When asked if her camp would indeed walk out, Dr Priscilla Leung Mei-fun of the Business and Professionals Alliance told the Post: “You will see.”

If a quorum (35 lawmakers) cannot be met, the council meeting will be adjourned until next Wednesday.

There are 30 pro-democracy lawmakers in the legislature.

9.45am – Tension outside Legco

A large crowd has gathered outside the Legislative Council complex, protesting against the Youngspiration pair for being allowed to take the oath again.

The protesters, all from pro-Beijing groups and parties such as Justice Alliance and the Federation of Trade Unions, held banners and placards condemning the two localist legislators.

“Yau and Leung get out of China,” one placard read.

Various pro-establishment legislators, including Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong’s Wilson Or Chong-shing, Elizabeth Quat and Business and Professionals Alliance’s Dr Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, went down to meet and speak with the ralliers.

“We will do all we can to stop them from taking the oath,” Leung told the protesters.

8-10am – Early radio commentary

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Dr Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said someone had to execute Section 21 of the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance, which states that anyone who “declines or neglects to take an oath duly requested” would be disqualified from entering office. She said the government had reached the end of its rope and had to go through with the judicial review.

Speaking on RTHK, Leung also claimed many people from the legal sector disagreed with Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s decision.

Hong Kong government fails to block localist duo from retaking Legco oaths, but wins right to seek judicial review

“So many lawyers provided their opinions, but [Leung] only listened to one piece of advice from his outsourced senior counsel,” she said.

But legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok slammed the government’s move as an abuse of the judicial process and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

While he also found the antics of Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching “very irresponsible”, their actions were only a political act and did not constitute a legal issue, he said on the same programme

He added if the pair were not to be given another chance to take their oaths, then the other three who had their oaths invalidated – including pro-establishment lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong – should also be banned from swearing in again.

Calling in to the radio programme while heading back to the Legislative Council, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang said he found the possibility of Beijing interpreting the Basic Law “worrying”, but would not reveal what he or Yau would resort to when they were scheduled to take their oaths again in the chamber later today.

Localist lawmakers Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching will get a chance to retake their oaths today as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s administration failed to block them in an eleventh-hour application for a court injunction last night.

While the government will get another day in court to press on with an application for a judicial review of the Legco president’s decision to let them retake their oath, all eyes this morning will be on whether and how the Youngspiration pair will finally stay faithful to the vow required of them as duly elected members of Legco.

Watch: three Hong Kong lawmakers have oaths rejected

The government’s unprecedented move to legally challenge the legislature sent shock waves across political circles yesterday.

The democratic camp and legal academics like Occupy movement leader Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun slammed the chief executive, claiming he was destroying the city’s separation of powers and being disrespectful of the Legco president’s constitutional responsibilities.

Legco president invalidates five lawmakers’ oaths, now including localist lecturer and pro-Beijing loyalist

Pro-Beijing lawmakers like Priscilla Leung said the legal action was a “last resort” as the officials had no other ways to stop the unpatriotic duo from taking office.

There is also speculation that the government might take the chance to seek an interpretation of the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress if it loses the judicial review bid later – a highly controversial move, if made, which would have huge implications for “one country, two systems”. Officials will be hard pressed by the politicians to explain their actions.