Four former pro-democracy lawmakers said the Legislative Council Commission’s decision to demand that they pay back the salaries and allowances they had received prior to their disqualification was absurd and obvious political oppression.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the four – Dr. Lau Siu-lai, founder of Democracy Groundwork; “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats; Nathan Law Kwun-chung, chair of the political party Demosistō who was jailed for his role in a 2014 protest but is currently free on bail; and Dr. Edward Yiu Chung-yim, who represented the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency – said they will seek legal advice while hoping that the commission will be able to reconsider its decision.
They were disqualified by the High Court in July for improper oath-taking last year. Their disqualification is effective from Oct. 12, 2016, the day the swearing-in ceremony for Legco members took place.
Based on the ruling, the commission decided after a special meeting on Monday morning that they have to return a combined HK$11.74 million in salaries and operating allowances they earned during the period, ranging from HK$2.7 million to HK$3.1 million each, Apple Daily reports.
Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who also chairs the commission, told media it is the commission’s duty to recover the funds as public money is involved.
The former lawmakers will be given a notice first and then they will have four weeks to provide a reply to the commission, the Legco chief said, adding that it will then consider the next move after receiving their replies.
It is understood the commission might reconsider its decision if the affected parties could come up with a strong defense, an unnamed source told the newspaper.
According to the Legco president, the decision was made after taking reference to legal opinions, although the votes the four had cast at Legco during the period were deemed effective.
Lawmaker Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, who is vice chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, urged the four to communicate with the commission as soon as possible, while Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said he will write to the commission to ask for reconsideration.
Law said they had served the public at Legco diligently, and as such, they should not be asked to return their salaries and allowances they had been paid in the months preceding the court’s decision, saying their “sweat deserved the pay”.
The commission’s decision reflects Beijing’s wish to deter them from joining any election in the future by forcing them to enter into bankruptcy, Law said, adding that it could be considered as a deprivation of their political rights.
Leung Kwok-hung said the government should first sue the Legco president because it was he who had called the four lawmakers’ oath-taking valid.
Lau urged the public to join a demonstration scheduled for Sunday to protest against the political persecution.
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