Beijing’s interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law has provided the establishment camp with the means to kick out more independence advocates from the Legislative Council.
This will give Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his allies more chances to gain more seats in the legislature through by-elections after the High Court disqualified Youngspiration duo Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching.
On Tuesday the pro-establishment Sing Tao Daily published an exclusive story saying the government is seeking to disqualify a third localist legislator – Democracy Groundwork’s Lau Siu-lai – on the grounds that she didn’t take her oath properly.
According to Sing Tao, the chief executive has asked the Department of Justice whether there’s scope for the government to file a similar disqualification case against Lau.
Lau found herself in trouble after first oath was invalidated because she read it out extremely slowly, although her second try at being sworn in was successful.
Lau said she’s not afraid of being disqualified and will face the situation bravely.
Meanwhile, Yau and Sixtus Leung have appealed their case before the Court of Final Appeal, but with Beijing’s interpretation of the law on oath-taking before the judge’s desk, there’s little hope for the localist pair to secure their Legco seats.
As such, two Legco seats, one in Kowloon West and another in New Territories East, will soon be vacant and available through by-election, which could happen no later than May next year.
Yau and Sixtus Leung’s disqualification would reduce the number of Legco seats gained by the opposition to 28.
And in the geographical constituency, the opposition has only 17 seats, versus 16 seats for the pro-Beijing camp.
That means that the establishment camp only needs to ease out at least two more lawmakers from the opposition in order to become the majority in the geographical constituency.
If that happens, they will enjoy absolute majority in both the functional and geographical constituencies and secure approval for all the bills initiated by the government.
Media reports indicate that, aside from Lau, another opposition lawmaker who is liable to be disqualified is Civic Passion’s Cheng Chung-tai.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun is seeking to oust Cheng from Legco over an act of “misbehavior” in the chamber.
Last month, while a Legco meeting was suspended, the localist legislator turned several Chinese and Hong Kong SAR flags displayed in the chamber upside down.
Tse is asking the Legco House Committee to move a condemnation motion against Tse. If the motion is supported by a two-thirds majority, Cheng will lose his Legco seat.
Cheng, for his part, said if his rivals had the country uppermost in their mind, they shouldn’t have left the flags unattended while the Legco meeting was suspended.
It may be hard for Cheng to justify his action of touching things that do not belong to him. But Tse is acting like a schoolchild who tells the teacher about a naughty thing that his classmate did in the classroom.
There is, of course, a political agenda behind Tse’s move. Cheng’s ouster will leave a vacant seat in the New Territories West constituency that could be taken by the pro-Beijing camp.
In the New Territories East constituency, meanwhile, it’s not just Sixtus Leung’s seat that may be open for the establishment camp’s taking.
It seems that they are also targeting the seat of radical lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung.
Long Hair has been sentenced to a week in jail for disrupting a school debate attended by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
It was also Lam who has reportedly asked Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen to take action against Long Hair after he grabbed confidential documents from Undersecretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung during a Legco meeting.
Then there’s the complaint from pro-Beijing lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok, who reported to the police on Wednesday that Leung threw slices of luncheon meat at him at the Legco complex last month.
It’s not clear whether it was Long Hair who initiated the meat-throwing melee, as there were reports that it was Ben Chan Han-pan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong who started it.
It’s certainly no longer amusing to see supposedly honorable legislators behaving like naughty schoolkids in the classroom, but something sinister is apparently being cooked against Long Hair when all these incidents are suddenly being brought up against him.
The so-called misbehavior from opposition lawmakers is merely their reaction to a political situation where the odds are stacked up against them.
And if the establishment camp uses those incidents to target opposition lawmakers to advance their political interest, then the little democratic space that is available in the territory will only be narrowed further, if not totally eliminated.
The concerted efforts to ease out localists and pan-democrats from Legco give rise to speculation that someone behind the scene may be orchestrating this apparent campaign against the opposition.
Could this be part of CY Leung’s desire to stir up public sentiment against the Hong Kong independence movement as next year’s chief executive election draws nearer?
Coincidentally, Robert Chow Yung, who led the pro-Beijing group Silent Majority against the Occupy Movement in 2014, is reportedly leading a delegation for a visit to Beijing soon.
What’s he going to do there? Will he receive new instructions from Beijing? Will he be asked to organize a new campaign, this time directed against the independence advocates?
Remember, the chief executive election is just four months away.
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