Seeking better ties
LegCo chief urges opposition lawmakers to abandon their ‘fighting mentality’
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
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.
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.