D-day for four Hong Kong lawmakers who face expulsion from Legislative Council
Court will rule on Friday on bid by former leader Leung Chun-ying to unseat four pan-democrat legislators who distorted their oaths of office in October
The opposition camp in Hong Kong’s legislature could see its limited veto power further curtailed, with the High Court set to rule on Friday on whether four lawmakers should be disqualified for distorting their oaths of office.
All eyes will be on veteran pro-democracy activist “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and newly elected lawmakers Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu Chung-yim as the court announces its decision on the legal bid by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying to kick them out of the Legislative Council.
The Court of Appeal has already disqualified two elected pro-independence lawmakers, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang. It applied Beijing’s controversial interpretation of the city’s mini-constitution, making it punishable by disqualification if oaths are not taken sincerely and accurately.
The four lawmakers remained defiant on Thursday, vowing to appeal if the court ruled against them despite concerns about their ability to pay legal fees.
“I hope the court will understand that stripping the rights and powers of a publicly returned lawmaker is a very serious act – and [our rights] can only be taken away if we lose the case in the Court of Final Appeal,” Leung Kwok-hung said.
Law said their prosecution was blatant political oppression by the government to silence dissent, as the four were all considered to be “progressive democrats”.
Should two of the three directly elected lawmakers – Leung Kwok-hung, Lau and Law – be stripped of their seats, the camp would lose its 17-16 majority in the geographical constituencies.
The existing edge is essential to vote down motions they oppose, such as blocking the pro-establishment camp from changing Legco’s rule book to restrict filibustering.
Pan-democrats have been using stalling tactics to drag out debates on controversial bills.
The four lawmakers said they would continue to perform their duties on Friday by attending a Finance Committee meeting at 2.30pm, half an hour before the court is expected to issue its ruling.
But committee chairman Chan Kin-por, of the pro-establishment camp, said he would suspend the meeting if some lawmakers were unseated midway through it and let the Legco president, legal advisers and secretariat sort it out.
The Legco secretariat said it would study the judgment and carry out suitable follow-up action if needed.
At their swearing-in session last October, Leung Kwok-hung took his oath holding a yellow umbrella – a symbol of the Occupy protests in 2014 – and chanted anti-Communist Party slogans.
Law raised his tone when reciting the word “Republic” in “People’s Republic of China”, as if asking a question.
Yiu added a sentence to his oath: “I will uphold procedural justice in Hong Kong, fight for genuine universal suffrage and serve the city’s sustainable development.”
Lau paused for six seconds between every word of her oath, then later wrote on Facebook that she had meant to render the statement “meaningless”.
The oath-taking attempts by Yiu and Lau were declared invalid by the Legco president, but they were allowed to retake them at a later session. Lawyers see Lau as the one most likely to be unseated.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor earlier refused to promise that she would not appeal should the government lose the case. “I would not regard something wrong as right for the sake of improving relations [with Legco],” she said.