Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Disqualified lawmakers say they have a strong legal defence against salary and expenses claim

Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim urge commission to drop action against them

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2017, 8:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2017, 11:03pm

Two disqualified lawmakers, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, have written to the Legislative Council urging members to drop the “unjust” claim for them to repay their salaries and expenses, saying they have strong legal grounds of defence.

The development came as they were due to reply to the Legco Commission on Wednesday and the other two ousted lawmakers “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai, who have filed an appeal against their disqualifications, said they would not reply at this stage.

The commission issued the four with salary repayment bills, ranging from HK$2.7 million to HK$3.1 million per person last month.

In the letter replying to the commission, lawyers for Law and Yiu, led by former Bar Association chairman Paul Shieh Wing-tai, stated that the pair have strong legal grounds against the claim, citing some legal cases and principles.

Legco Commission members say disqualified lawmakers may not have to repay full salaries

“Not only are there strong legal grounds for resisting the claim by the commission, to insist on repayment against our client is also unjust and contrary to common decency and common sense,” the letter read.

“As we have stated in our letter to Legco, we believe we have a strong legal basis that the money we received to sustain our daily operation of our Legco office shall not be asked to be returned,” said Nathan Law Kwun-chung, in a reply that echoed the letter sent by his lawyers. “We believe if they are clearly going against our stance, there will be vigorous resistance.”

The four lawmakers were ousted for taking their oaths of office in ways that Beijing later ruled unconstitutional when the national legislature interpreted the city’s mini-constitution November 2016.

The interpretation stated that “no public office shall be assumed, no corresponding

powers and functions shall be exercised, and no corresponding entitlements shall be enjoyed by anyone who fails to lawfully and validly take the oath or who declines to take the oath”.

The Legco Commission cited this as the legal grounds to take their money back, as their salaries were seen as part of the “entitlements”.

Yet, Shieh argued that the words did not mean that the pair could not retain the money they had received, under civil law principles.

Their oaths were ruled to be valid by the Legco president, and they had devoted time and effort in attending to the business of Legco, he argued, saying these were all part of the justifications for their retainment of the money.

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In another letter penned by the solicitors hired by the pair, it also urged the Legco to drop the claim as to avoid wasting the court’s time and public funds, which will also have the “undesirable effect of causing more public outcry and social divisiveness”.

The bills consisted of three parts, with salaries amounting to HK$860,000 for each. Operating expense reimbursement claims for hiring staff and buying equipment ranged from HK$1.4 million to HK$1.8 million, while their advances to defray various items of expenses were from HK$370,000 to HK$460,000.

According to the reply letter, Law and Yiu in principle agree to refund any remaining balance of the advance, subject to further discussion with the commission about the amount.

By-elections to fill the seats vacated by Law and Yiu are due to be held on March 11, 2018.