Date
4 December 2016
Beijing's recent moves have heightened concerns among Hong Kong people that the city's autonomy and freedoms are not safe. Photo: Reuters
Beijing's recent moves have heightened concerns among Hong Kong people that the city's autonomy and freedoms are not safe. Photo: Reuters

Why we mustn’t give up in the fight against Beijing

“Beijing destroys the rule of law, Hong Kong is world city no more.”

We saw this message splashed in a Hong Kong newspaper after Beijing announced its interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law and blocked two pro-independence lawmakers from taking office.

Following the unprecedented intervention in the city’s politics, there are concerns as to what the Communist leaders in China will do next to suppress what they see as “separatists” in Hong Kong.  

Many people are outraged at the recent events as they feel Beijing has undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and judicial independence, making “one country, two systems” something of a joke.

Political activists and concerned citizens have begun to stage demonstrations, but the protests are unlikely to sway Beijing as it seems bent on showing that it is really the boss here.

Anger is mounting among the people and there are intense discussions about the way forward in order defend our freedoms and autonomy.

With the Leung Chun-ying administration playing the perfect lackey, Beijing may be having the upper hand now.

However, the battle is not over yet and Hong Kong people can still send a powerful message to the rulers in China — through by-elections for the Legco seats that could fall vacant.

With Beijing invoking a rarely used provision of the Basic Law — Hong Kong’s mini-constitution — and declaring that lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung have no right to take office due to improper oath-taking last month, the stage is set for formal disqualification of the duo.

That means there could be by-elections for their seats soon.

Meanwhile, as the Leung administration is keen on following Beijing’s interpretation of the law, a judicial review could be launched on some other lawmakers who behaved improperly at oath-taking or have advocated independence. 

The list could include Edward Yim and Lau Siu-lai, who had to take their oaths twice to secure confirmation from authorities, and Leung Kwok-hung, the lawmaker who carried a yellow umbrella — a symbol of the pro-democracy movement — to the oath-taking ceremony in October.

All of them could face government lawsuits with regard to their eligibility to be in the Legco.

Pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily has reported, citing a government source, that at least 10 lawmakers face a risk over the issue of retaining their seats after the Beijing legal ruling.

If the government indeed decides to move against these lawmakers, there could be a drawn out legal process.

Meanwhile, authorities could seek quick by-elections in the affected constituencies, hoping to fill the seats with pro-establishment candidates.

Chief Executive Leung has said the government has made no arrangements for now for by-elections to fill the positions of lawmakers who may be disqualified from office in light of Beijing’s interpretation.

But he added: “Of course, if there are seats vacated, the government will as soon as possible carry out a by-election.”

As a matter of fact, the administration is trying hard to give the public the impression that several lawmakers who took oaths “in their own way” could face disqualification after the Beijing ruling.

Development Secretary Paul Chan, a Leung loyalist, said on Tuesday that the government does not fully recognize the status of certain legislators.

Just because he answers their questions, it doesn’t mean that he is acknowledging their official status as lawmakers, Chan said.

Such unusual comment indicates that the executive arm of the government has fully embraced and is supportive of Beijing’s interpretation of the law.

The Legislative Council, meanwhile, also seems to be echoing Beijing’s position.

On Tuesday, the body that supervises the operation of the Legco secretariat said it is banning the assistants of Yau and Sixtus Leung from the Legco premises and canceling their access cards.

The Legislative Council Commission also condemned Leung and Yau for gate-crashing a meeting.

Legco President Andrew Leung said the ban was to ensure the safety of everyone in the building, and that it will remain in force until the commission decides the lawmakers no longer pose a threat to anyone inside.

It is quite clear that the Legco chief believes that Sixtus Leung and Yau will be formally disqualified in the near future. Otherwise, there’s no reason for him to ban the lawmakers’ assistants from Legco premises.

Andrew Leung may, of course, be afraid that the Youngspiration lawmaker duo could try to storm the chamber again with the help of their assistants.

However, what he seems to be forgetting is that the two are still lawmakers under existing Hong Kong laws. As long as they remain so, they should have been allowed to have their assistants in the Legco premises.

What we can conclude is that the decision is a political one, in line with the aims of Beijing.

Reflecting the growing unease in Hong Kong about Beijing’s blatant interference in local affairs, hundreds of black-clad lawyers took to the streets late Tuesday.

Outlining their opposition to Beijing’s latest interpretation of the Basic Law – which marked the most significant intervention in Hong Kong’s legal system since the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997 — the lawyers marched in silence.

But such passive response to the Beijing intervention won’t be enough.

What Hong Kong people should do now is this: seize the opportunity of the upcoming by-elections to elect anti-establishment candidates again and send a clear message to Beijing.

The by-elections should be used as a referendum on Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s judicial system and political affairs.

And a final call to Beijing to respect the “one country, two systems” pledge — whatever is left of it. 

– Contact us at [email protected]

SC/AC/RC

EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter