Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Crystal balls, Pandora’s box and spies: ‘no regrets’ for ousted Hong Kong Legco lawmaker

Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang remain defiant as they face possible bankruptcy and a trial which may land them in jail

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 11:18pm

Pro-independence activist and former lawmaker Yau Wai-ching has “no regrets” about her protest action at her oath-taking that led to her disqualification, even as she faces possible bankruptcy and another trial that could put her behind bars.

In an interview with the Post, 26-year-old Yau said she was prepared to go bankrupt and ready to go to jail for storming the Legislative Council during the oath-taking row.

On November 2 last year, Yau and fellow activist Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang had tried to force their way into the Legco chamber to retake their oaths after they were booted out in two earlier attempts.

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They now face charges of unlawful assembly, which carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. The trial will be the next challenge for the duo after a final bid to reinstate their seats was rejected by the city’s top court last month.

“I have no regrets, sorry,” Yau said.

In a letter penned on social media earlier, Yau had expressed remorse for her “arrogance and rashness”. She later clarified that she was referring only to her attitude towards her team.

Both Leung and Yau said they were prepared for the worst outcome from their coming trial in December, after 13 pro-democracy protesters convicted of unlawful assembly were jailed for eight to 13 months in August.

“I plan to write an autobiography [in jail],” Leung, 31, said, joking that it sounded like something “cool” to do.

Yau added: “I am drafting the book list. I hope to read more philosophy books and provoke my thoughts.”

The duo sounded calm and resigned to their fate after the fiery rise and fall of their political careers.

“I was just a citizen in the beginning,” Yau said. “Yes, I have financial difficulties at the moment ... but I was penniless before anyway.”

The pair face an estimated HK$12 million in legal fees, with Legco issuing them a final notice calling for the repayment of HK$1.86 million in salaries and allowances.

Yau said she was doing administrative work for an employer she was on close terms with, while Leung a former e-commerce manager, was freelancing for social media content.

“The skills that I have acquired over the years seem useless now,” Leung lamented, claiming it was difficult for him to return to the industry, as most firms had business ties with mainland China and might be wary of his former political background.

The pair’s saga began on October 12 last year when they used expletives and a derogatory wartime term to describe China, and unfurled a banner bearing the words “Hong Kong is not China” during the Legco swearing-in ceremony.

Their antics prompted Beijing to interpret the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, making improper oath-taking an offence punishable by disqualification.

In November, a court subsequently unseated them in a legal challenge mounted by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying and his justice minister.

Taking stock of the events in their lives over the past year, Yau and Baggio Leung said they had no crystal ball and people should not be too quick to judge them.

Did all of Hong Kong’s disqualified lawmakers flout the basics of oath-taking?

“No one could have imagined the government would require candidates to sign the declaration form or bar them from running,” Yau said, referring to a move in July last year requiring Legco candidates to acknowledge Hong Kong as an inalienable part of China.

She added that it was also unimaginable that they were ousted because of a “mere banner”.

Leung said he believed the consequences might have been far worse if they were sworn in with no issues. “They may then later accuse us of perjury, which is a criminal offence,” he said.

The pair also hit back at criticism from some members of the pro-democracy camp, who said their actions had opened a Pandora’s box, especially Beijing’s interpretation, which they saw as a blow to the city’s judicial independence and a means to disqualify more opposition lawmakers.

“Using the same logic, I could blame them for opening the door for Beijing to interfere with Hong Kong’s autonomy when they supported the handover,” Leung argued, referring to the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.

“These arguments serve no purpose in pushing forward the democracy movement.”

Both activists also addressed conspiracy theories of their status as “spies”. Some have accused them of being hired hands whose antics were a calculated gambit to give the central government reason to intervene in Hong Kong affairs.

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“If being spies means going bankrupt and getting jailed, who would want that? Hongkongers, who are known for being calculative, should be well aware of this,” Leung said.

“Someone still questioned if the whole saga was a script. We have paid so much for the future of Hong Kong, yet we have been criticised by our supposed allies,” Yau added.

Looking ahead, they admitted they felt lost regarding their future careers, as well as the direction of the city’s democracy movement.