Date
8 December 2016
Based on interpretation of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, elected legislators (from left) Sixtus Leung, Yau Wai-ching, Lau Siu-lai, Edward Yiu, Eddie Chu and Nathan Law may face disqualification. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ
Based on interpretation of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, elected legislators (from left) Sixtus Leung, Yau Wai-ching, Lau Siu-lai, Edward Yiu, Eddie Chu and Nathan Law may face disqualification. Photos: Reuters, HKEJ

Six lawmakers may face disqualification after Beijing move

Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee, said the effectivity of Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law pertaining to the Legislative Council oath-taking controversy should be dated back to the day when Hong Kong’s charter went into effect on July 1, 1997.

However, Li said cases that the Court of Final Appeal has ruled on are exempted for the sake of the stability of the legal system.

That could mean that six elected legislators, including those considered to have completed their swearing-in, might be disqualified and barred from participating in Legco meetings and its other activities, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The remarks from Li, who is also deputy secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee, came after China’s parliament issued its ruling on Monday.

“When assuming office, the Chief Executive, principal officials, members of the Executive Council and of the Legislative Council, judges of the courts at all levels and other members of the judiciary in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region must, in accordance with law, swear to uphold the Basic Law” and “swear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR”, the NPC Standing Committee said.

“A person must take the oath sincerely and solemnly as well as accurately and completely read out its wording, or the oath-taker is disqualified from assuming office if they decline to take it properly,” it said.

“No retaking of the oath is allowed if the administrator of the oath, such as the Legco secretary general, invalidates an oath,” it added.

Apple Daily quoted Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, as saying that such an interpretation of the law might affect six elected legislators, including Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-ching who had their oaths voided on Oct. 12 after they displayed a cape with the words “Hong Kong is not China” and pronounced words in a manner deemed derogatory to the mainland.

Since then, the Leung and Yau have not been sworn into office yet.

Lau Siu-lai, a pro-democracy lawmaker, and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, a newly elected lawmaker from the architecture functional constituency, could also lose their Legco seats because their first oath-taking on Oct. 12 was also invalidated, although both successfully retook their oaths of office later.

Based on Beijing’s interpretation, Nathan Law Kwun-chung of the pro-democracy youth group Demosistō and independent Eddie Chu Hoi-dick might also be disqualified because they were criticized for not being solemn and accurate enough when they took their oaths of office, although they had successfully sworn in the first time, according to Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal lecturer at the University of Hong Kong.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung also said any case that has received a court’s final ruling in Hong Kong is not impacted by Beijing’s latest interpretation of the Basic Law.

But since the High Court has not made any decision on whether Leung and Yau deserve a second chance after the government filed an application for judicial review, any decision it makes later on would mean nothing, Yuen said.

Cheung of the HKU acknowledged that the Youngspiration duo might be disqualified.

He said the NPC Standing Committee knows well that its interpretation, which has the same effect as the Basic Law as stipulated by Article 158 of the law, will force the High Court to do nothing but follow.

Still, Cheung said it could be argued that the NPC’s interpretation did not mention anything about being “retroactive”, and the fate of Leung and Yau may depend on whether the High Court agrees with the view that it is retroactive.

Also on Monday, 39 pro-Beijing lawmakers issued a joint statement saying the validity of the oath-taking of all lawmakers must be reviewed in light of the NPC interpretation, not just that of Leung and Yau.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom urged Beijing not to do anything to impair the “one country, two systems” principle.

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TL/AC/CG

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