Date
18 November 2017
Lawmaker Lau Siu-lai holds a press conference at the Legislative Council. The Department of Justice said it would initiate proceedings against her. Photo: Reuters
Lawmaker Lau Siu-lai holds a press conference at the Legislative Council. The Department of Justice said it would initiate proceedings against her. Photo: Reuters

Govt has some explaining to do on legal moves against localists

The government owes the public a lot of explanations over its legal moves against localist lawmakers.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen have said that they would file judicial review applications over the legitimacy of four localist lawmakers — Lau Siu-lai, Yiu Chung-yim, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung — on the grounds that they failed to deliver their oaths properly on Oct. 12 according to the recent guidelines laid down by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

The duo stressed that there had been no political considerations involved in the process of deciding whether to proceed with the legal challenge.

In fact, many Hong Kong citizens have been under the impression that the NPCSC interpretation of the Basic Law was only targeted at pro-independence lawmakers like Youngspiration pair Sixtus Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, and the whole thing would be over after their removal from office.

Most voters, including myself, never expected the government to widen its scope of targets to include other localist lawmakers who are not pro-independence at all, hence the widespread public dismay at the government’s witch hunt against them.

Even the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), one of Hong Kong’s leftist flagships, has refrained from inflicting extensive damage on the pro-democracy camp, and sought the removal of Lau Siu-lai only.

Unfortunately, it appears the government has outstripped the FTU and “surpassed all expectations” by seeking the removal of not just one but four pro-democracy lawmakers in one go.

The government’s decision to go after the four localist lawmakers has also raised doubts about its necessity, since several members of the public have already filed their own judicial review applications against the four lawmakers in question, which means the court is going to rule on their legitimacy sooner or later, with or without the government’s legal initiative.

Besides, the government also owes the public an explanation as to how it is going to justify spending tens of millions of taxpayer’s money to seek the removal of the four lawmakers all the way to the Court of Final Appeal.

Nor did the government explain in detail whether it is truly in the public interest to do so, given the magnitude of the inevitable political repercussions and public backlash once these four lawmakers are removed from office.

On the other hand, the government also owes the public an answer as to why it is going after the four localist lawmakers so aggressively while letting off some other opposition lawmakers such as Helena Wong who represents the Democratic Party, Shiu Ka-chun, Chan Chi-chuen and Eddie Chu who have also violated Article 104 of the Basic Law according to the NPCSC interpretation.

How is it going to justify enforcing the NPCSC interpretation selectively?

As we all know, there are two guiding principles when it comes to the rule of law — 1. Everybody is equal before the law, and 2. Justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done.

However, the government’s decision to go after the four lawmakers has cast doubts on whether these two principles still apply to Hong Kong.

For example, the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance has been in force for many years and it wasn’t until the case of the Youngspiration duo that the government finally invoked it for the first time.

The problem is, why didn’t the government also invoke this same piece of legislation against the four lawmakers at the same time as it was going after the Youngspiration duo?

Is it because the administration has a secret plan to escalate its crackdown on the entire pro-democracy camp in a step-by-step manner in order to prevent the witch hunt from suddenly turning into a full-blown constitutional crisis?

So far, the government has not clarified whether it will hunt down other pro-democracy lawmakers after it has finished dealing with the four localists.

At the same time, there are also several pro-establishment lawmakers who either failed to nail their oaths in one take or deliver their oaths properly according to the NPCSC interpretation.

Why didn’t the government file judicial review applications against them as well? The administration obviously owes the public an answer.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 7

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

RT/RA

Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

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