21 January 2019
Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the NPCSC, said the interpretation would help to close constitutional loopholes in the existing law. Photo: HKEJ
Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the NPCSC, said the interpretation would help to close constitutional loopholes in the existing law. Photo: HKEJ

Beijing’s interpretation raises more questions than it answers

As expected, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) unanimously passed its interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law.

As Li Fei (李飛), deputy secretary general of the NPCSC, put it, instead of constituting any violation of the judicial independence of Hong Kong, the interpretation actually helped to close the constitutional loopholes in our existing law.

Unfortunately, we believe the NPCSC’s interpretation has actually raised more questions than answers, and may set our city on a course towards even more intense political chaos and confrontation.

Here’s why:

According to the interpretation, all lawmakers must read out the prescribed oath “sincerely, accurately and completely”.

Anybody who deliberately fails to do so will be considered as “refusing” to take the oath properly, and should not be allowed to retake it.

However, the interpretation indeed not only has direct bearing on the Youngspiration duo, but also calls into question the legitimacy of several other pro-democracy lawmakers who failed to deliver their oath “properly” at the initial swearing-in ceremony, but who were allowed by Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen to retake their oaths.

That’s because, according to the interpretation, lawmakers should only be allowed a single opportunity to finish their oaths.

On the other hand, the interpretation also casts doubts on the legitimacy of a dozen other pro-democracy lawmakers who did nail their oath in one take, but who might not have delivered their oath “accurately” according to the interpretation since they added their own slogans during the oath-taking.

These lawmakers include Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and even the more moderate Helena Wong Pik-wan of the Democratic Party.

The NPCSC didn’t specify whether these lawmakers also violated the interpretation, nor did it say whether they should be disqualified as well, thereby adding extra uncertainty to the already chaotic and controversial situation.

In other words, given the retrospective nature of the interpretation, apart from the Youngspiration duo, there are a dozen of other lawmakers who could also be facing the risk of losing their office.

If that worst-case scenario happens, our legislature will definitely be thrown into complete disarray and paralysis, leading to the gravest constitutional crisis this city has ever seen.

Besides, the NPCSC interpretation didn’t touch on the issue of whether those who have been disqualified or their proxies should be allowed to run in the ensuing by-elections, leaving behind even more uncertainties.

Perhaps all we can do now is look to the High Court to provide answers to all these questions and deliver an impartial judgement.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 8.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version中文版]


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