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Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Disqualification could cost Hong Kong lawmakers up to HK$18m

They may have to repay around HK$11 million in salaries and expenses, on top of a legal bill of up to HK$7 million

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 July, 2017, 11:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 July, 2017, 11:45pm

The four lawmakers disqualified on Friday over their oath antics could face claims by the Legislative Council for the return of up to HK$11 million in salary and allowances, plus up to HK$7 million in legal fees.

But Legco may exercise discretion and only require them to repay part of their salaries, unlike the pro-independence duo Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who need to repay all their salaries plus advanced payments to set up their offices after being disqualified in November for their insincere oaths.

Hong Kong pan-democrats slam disqualification ruling, accuse government of ‘rewriting election results’

The pair were barred from council meetings in October after Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen ruled their oaths invalid.

But the four disqualified on Friday – “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai, Edward Yiu Chung-yim and Nathan Law Kwun-chung – have taken part and voted in meetings for nine months.

“The legal advisers will study the verdict and the secretariat will calculate the amount involved,” Andrew Leung said. “As public money was involved, we must handle with care.”

He said the arrangement would be discussed in the Legislative Council commission. However, a special meeting has yet to be scheduled as the council session will end next week and some members will be absent on an overseas Legco visit.

One commission member, Alice Mak Mei-kuen of the pro-establishment camp, said the legal advice would be key in their decision. She said the commission may have to seek independent views as well as from Legco’s in-house legal team.

Oath-taking antics: The acts that got six Hong Kong lawmakers disqualified

Another pro-establishment legislator, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who is also an associate law professor, believed Legco had the right to claim back all salaries from October 12, 2016 – the date from which the court ruled disqualification was effective.

But she agreed the case was slightly different from the earlier disqualification of the duo and she believed Legco had discretionary power in its calculations.

Lawmakers are paid around HK$90,000 a month and can each claim HK$2.5 million a year in reimbursements for office expenses. They also have a medical allowance of HK$32,400.

Baggio Leung and Yau face claims totalling HK$1.86 million.

If the four were handled in the same way, each would have to give back over HK$830,000 in salaries, plus an average of HK$2 million in operation costs.

And on top of individual legal bills of HK$1 million each, the four lawmakers also need to pay legal costs of HK$3 million to the Department of Justice. Only Leung was granted legal aid for help with his expenses.

Vowing to fight the case to the Court of Final Appeal, Leung admitted the financial burden was their major concern.

The pan-democratic camp earlier launched a crowd-funding campaign that raised HK$4.7 million.