23 April 2019
Lau Siu-lai is shown at her swearing-in. She is among several lawmakers facing legal challenges over the oath-taking fiasco. Photo: HKEJ
Lau Siu-lai is shown at her swearing-in. She is among several lawmakers facing legal challenges over the oath-taking fiasco. Photo: HKEJ

Beware of escalating witch-hunt against lawmakers

The recent interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) has not only provoked a ferocious backlash but also sparked a witch-hunting frenzy.

This is in the form of judicial review applications against pro-democracy or pro-establishment lawmakers who could have violated the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance.

As of Nov. 23, as many as 28 lawmakers were facing legal challenges.

The political uncertainty brought about by the wave of judicial reviews have taken a heavy toll on the harmony and stability of our society.

The NPCSC’s interpretation did not help facilitate consensus as some Beijing officials had expected.

Instead, it has exacerbated divisions and confrontations.

The people who filed judicial review applications against other lawmakers after the removal of the Youngspiration duo from office fall into two main categories — they are either pro-Beijing loyalists who wanted to inflict further damage on the pro-democracy camp, or pro-democracy activists who wanted to voice their anger over the NPCSC interpretation by filing judicial reviews against pro-establishment lawmakers in revenge.

However, most of the arguments presented by these applicants are either legally groundless or illogical and flimsy.

For example, many of them have cited legally irrelevant “evidence” such as some anti-Beijing remarks made by certain lawmakers before or after the Legco swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 12.

Obviously, they have got it all wrong because when deciding whether or not a public office holder has violated Article 104 of the Basic Law or the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance, the court will only take into account the actual manner in which the defendants took their oath and the wording they used in their oath on Oct. 12.

Any other factors such as the remarks they made or the action they took before or after the swearing-in ceremony on that day are deemed irrelevant by the court.

Besides, there is already a well-established mechanism in the Basic Law to deal with lawmakers who have violated their oath of the Legco office such as making pro-independence remarks inside or outside Legco.

Under Article 79, removal of a lawmaker from office for misconduct or violation of the oath first requires the passage of a motion of reprimand and then a two-thirds majority vote to officially disqualify him from office.

In other words, since there is already a standard and detailed procedure in place to remove a lawmaker from office for misconduct, the matter can be fully settled within the jurisdiction of Legco and hence there is no need to take it to the courts.

Some pro-Beijing loyalists even took their witch-hunting campaign one step further and filed judicial review applications against pro-democracy lawmakers and sought their removal from office on the grounds that they had publicly rooted for “democratic self-determination” and “Hong Kong comes first”, something that, they claimed, amounts to advocating Hong Kong’s independence.

Again, such accusations are illogical and groundless. It is nonsensical to draw a parallel between “democratic self-determination” and “secession from China”, which are two entirely different concepts.

In fact, “democratic self-determination” only refers to enhancing the role of the public in the decision-making process of our government, a far cry from seeking independence.

Such acts of framing one’s political opponents for fabricated charges and putting political labels on others at will remind me of the political persecution and the struggle sessions commonly seen during Mao Zedong’s reign.

Tens of thousands of innocent civilians were labeled as rightist traitors or counter-revolutionaries and subjected to brutal persecution.

It is of the utmost importance to prevent Hong Kong from going down the same path.

The fact that more and more young people favor Hong Kong’s independence is no doubt alarming, but also alarming is the escalating witch-hunt frenzy against the pro-democracy camp because both of them are equally harmful to our society.

Rational debates and dialogue are always better than political persecution when it comes to mending fences among different political factions.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 24

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist

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