Seek­ing bet­ter ties

LegCo chief urges op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers to aban­don their ‘fight­ing men­tal­ity’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at joseph@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

The long­stand­ing strained ex­ec­u­tive-leg­isla­tive re­la­tions took a turn for the worse at the start of the cur­rent leg­isla­tive term due to the mis­be­hav­ior of cer­tain law­mak­ers dur­ing their oath-tak­ing, Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil Pres­i­dent An­drew Le­ung Kwan-yuen said.

But he said he hopes the ties could re­cover from the low in an in­ter­view with China Daily.

The gov­ern­ment sought a ju­di­cial re­view of the va­lid­ity of the oaths taken by Six­tus Le­ung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who had used undig­ni­fied lan­guage against the na­tion and Chi­nese peo­ple, and dis­played a sep­a­ratist ban­ner.

Fol­low­ing an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ar­ti­cle 104 of the Ba­sic Law by the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee (NPCSC) early last month, Hong Kong’s High Court dis­qual­i­fied the dis­graced duo as law­mak­ers for breach­ing the Oaths and Dec­la­ra­tions Or­di­nance.

“Ev­ery mat­ter has causes and con­se­quences,” An­drew Le­ung said. “Some peo­ple did not re­spect their sta­tus as elected law­mak­ers, as well as the Ba­sic Law, and did not take their oaths prop­erly. In the past, a few leg­is­la­tors had in­serted ad­di­tional words in their oaths and used props. But, this time, many young leg­is­la­tors be­haved out­ra­geously to gain at­ten­tion and to con­sol­i­date the back­ing of their sup­port­ers.”

He ex­plained that the LegCo had sec­re­tar­iat-is­sued oath-tak­ing guide­lines and the judg­ment by Jus­tice Michael Hart­mann on the Le­ung Kwok-hung’s oath-tak­ing case in 2014 as a prece­dent. Yet, some leg­is­la­tors had cho­sen to ig­nore the doc­u­ments and be­haved bizarrely when they were be­ing sworn in, thus prompt­ing the gov­ern­ment to take le­gal ac­tion.

“The in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ar­ti­cle 104 (of the Ba­sic Law) has made the leg­isla­tive in­tent very clear. Yet, the se­ri­ous con­se­quence is a ju­di­cial re­view be­ing taken against four other leg­is­la­tors,” Le­ung said, re­fer­ring to the ju­di­cial re­view taken by the gov­ern­ment on Dec 2 against four other law­mak­ers for not tak­ing their oaths solemnly.

“Since I had al­lowed some to re­take their oaths, my de­ci­sion will also be chal­lenged in court, but it’s good for the court to ad­ju­di­cate and pro­vide clear le­gal guid­ance for the fu­ture. I do not re­gret be­com­ing LegCo pres­i­dent be­cause this is a process in his­tory and I just hap­pen to be there,” he added.

Le­ung de­fended his ear­lier de­ci­sions to al­low leg­is­la­tors-elect to re­take their oaths. Be­fore mak­ing those de­ci­sions, he had con­sulted the LegCo le­gal ad­vis­ers and ex­ter­nal se­nior coun­sels and also re­ferred to var­i­ous doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing ex­am­ples lo­cally and in com­mon law coun­tries.

“Former LegCo pres­i­dents Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and Jasper Tsang Yoks­ing both al­lowed leg­is­la­tors to re­take their oaths when they re­ceived such re­quest in the spirit of pro­ce­dural jus­tice,” he ex­plained.

“LegCo has re­sumed nor­mal opera- tions in the past five weeks af­ter the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of the sep­a­ratist duo, with law­mak­ers be­gin­ning to con­cen­trate on their work, and I hope ex­ec­u­tive-leg­isla­tive re­la­tions will re­bound from their low ebb,” Le­ung said.

Re­build LegCo’s im­age

He said if op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers wish to mon­i­tor the gov­ern­ment, they must first build up a bet­ter im­age among the peo­ple than the gov­ern­ment. If LegCo is filled with chaotic fil­i­busters, abu­sive quo­rum bells and aborted meet­ings, the peo­ple’s im­age and cred­i­bil­ity of LegCo will be very bad.

The LegCo pres­i­dent ad­vised op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers to give up their “fight­ing men­tal­ity” and do gen­uine work in the in­ter­est of Hong Kong peo­ple be­cause it is their duty to serve the peo­ple and not to fight the gov­ern­ment.

He cited the Med­i­cal Reg­is­tra­tion (Amend­ment) Bill, which was blocked by fil­i­busters in July this year al­though it had a good cause of en­hanc­ing pa­tients’ rights and had been sup­ported by most law­mak­ers from both po­lit­i­cal camps.

“L eg­is­la­tors should strive to im­prove the qual­ity of their speeches and de­bates re­gard­less of whether they com­mend or crit­i­cize the gov­ern­ment. At the same time, the gov­ern­ment should take on board good sug­ges­tions from leg­is­la­tors.

“The op­po­si­tion should not al­ways claim they are elected by the peo­ple and the gov­ern­ment isn’t. The gov­ern­ment has a con­sti­tu­tional role. If the op­po­si­tion does not change their mind­set, they can­not build good re­la­tions with the new gov­ern­ment who­ever the next Chief Ex­ec­u­tive will be,” Le­ung stressed.

He crit­i­cized the op­po­si­tion camp, which had ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in the re­cent sub-sec­tor elec­tions of the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Elec­tion Com­mit­tee. “Yet, they op­posed the elec­toral re­form last year and gave up the chance to choose the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive by ‘one man, one vote’ in 2017.”

The op­po­si­tion camp should not take all things on the ta­ble at a go with­out giv­ing. They must rec­og­nize that the Aug 31 frame­work, the prin­ci­ple of grad­ual and or­derly progress and univer­sal suf­frage in the CE elec­tion come be­fore the LegCo elec­tion.” An­drew Le­ung Kwan-yuen, pres­i­dent of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil

Im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion

The “pan-democrats” have had lit­tle com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Bei­jing in the 19 years af­ter the han­dover, but the cen­tral and SAR gov­ern­ments have often ex­tended the olive branch to them.

“It’s no good to Hong Kong cit­i­zens if they con­tinue to con­front each other. We may not al­ways need to talk about po­lit­i­cal re­form with se­nior Bei­jing of­fi­cials. In­stead, we can ar­range work­ing trips on eco­nomic and cul­tural ex­changes, wa­ter sup­ply and food safety,” he urged.

He also re­called an oc­ca­sion that shows the mind­set of the op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers. “Re­cently, I re­layed a mes­sage to them that the Li­ai­son Of­fice (of the Cen­tral Peo­ple’s Gov­ern­ment in the Hong Kong SAR) would like to host a din­ner in their honor. Yet, their re­ply was ‘it’s not the suitable time’,” Le­ung re­vealed.

PHO­TOS BY ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY

An­drew Le­ung Kwan-yuen, in­cum­bent pres­i­dent of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil, hopes the ex­ec­u­tive-leg­isla­tive re­la­tion­ship will pick up now that the LegCo has re­sumed nor­mal op­er­a­tions.

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