23 July 2019
Andrew Leung is coming under pressure from both sides but he has to make up his mind on the swearing-in issue sooner rather than later. Photo: HKEJ
Andrew Leung is coming under pressure from both sides but he has to make up his mind on the swearing-in issue sooner rather than later. Photo: HKEJ

Andrew Leung: Hero or heel?

It’s fairly clear that Beijing does not want Sixtus Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching in the Legislative Council, so it’s marshaling its surrogates to stop them being sworn in a third time.

The game plan is to pressure Legco President Andrew Leung into backing away from his stance to allow the pair to take their oaths again. 

At the same time, the opposition wants Leung to stick to the legal principles and not budge.

Neither situation is palatable for Leung but he has to make a decision sooner rather than later.

To be sure, the pressure is palpable on both sides.

As if to pigeonhole him into a certain mindset, pro-Beijing Sing Tao Daily published a front-page story on Monday that the Legco chief plans to step back from his earlier decision to allow another swearing in.

That forced Leung to respond, saying he has to “examine all the changes in circumstances”.

It’s interesting that Leung now finds himself in bed with the opposition, which has been most vocal about questioning his qualification for the top Legco job over the issue of his his British passport.

Opposition lawmakers have yet to accept his explanation that he had renounced his British passport one day before he was elected Legco President. The Basic Law prohibits anyone with a foreign nationality from holding the office.

James To, a spokesman for the pan-democrats, is standing behind Leung, saying the latter is on solid ground to allow the localist duo to retake the oaths.

Legal considerations should be the overriding concern, To said.

Speaking to the media, To said there may be political changes “but there is no basic change in the fundamentals of legal arguments which can change the decision of Andrew Leung, who made the decision last week. So if a president only acts according to legal reasoning, he will not change and he should not change”. 

But the public as a whole should also encourage Leung to stand firm.

For instance, the public could cite that Leung’s decision last week to allow the pair to retake the oath was in accordance with Legco’s rules of procedure.

A provision titled “Arrangement of Business” lists administration of oath or affirmation at the top of the rules.

That gives the Legco president full authority to continue the oath-taking of the remaining three lawmakers-elect including Sixtus Leung and Yau before taking up other matters.

On Monday night, the Legco website published the agenda for Oct. 26 with the first item being “taking of legislative oath”.

No doubt Andrew Leung is playing a critical role in upholding “one country, two systems”.

His decision on the oath-taking will give a new meaning to Beijing’s policy on Hong Kong and set a precedent.

If he succumbs to pressure from the pro-establishment forces, he will have given Beijing reason to do whatever it wants with Legco including removing any of the people’s representatives from office.

The government, no doubt under Beijing’s direction already disqualified six candidates from the recent Legco elections because of their localist or pro-independence advocacies.

Ideally, Yau and Baggio Leung should be allowed to take their Lego seats and be judged by their performance — whether they should be censured or removed. 

But the pro-establishment camp could conceivably walk out again as they did last Wednesday and again tangle up proceedings. 

But by no means is this story over, even if the duo are finally sworn in.

The High Court has set a Nov. 3 hearing of a judicial review challenge by the government against Andrew Leung.

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EJ Insight writer

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