Com­ment

David Wong notes that four leg­is­la­tors were clearly at fault — their col­leagues can ac­cept Car­rie Lam’s olive branch, or con­tinue throw­ing span­ners in the works

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

Last Fri­day the High Court, in a land­mark rul­ing, stripped four op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers of their Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil seats for im­proper oath-tak­ing. In a dra­matic se­ries of events, Le­ung Kwokhung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Lau Siu-lai and Ed­ward Yiu Chungyim were dis­qual­i­fied by the court at about 3 pm while they were at­tend­ing a Fi­nance Com­mit­tee meet­ing in LegCo. Need­less to say, other op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers were shocked and emo­tional.

The court rul­ing was ini­ti­ated by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion against the im­proper con­duct of sev­eral leg­is­la­tors dur­ing their oath-tak­ing cer­e­mony last year. The judge ruled that it is a con­sti­tu­tional and le­gal re­quire­ment that the oath-taker, in tak­ing the oath, must also sin­cerely and truly be­lieve in the pledges un­der the oath he or she is tak­ing. In other words, the oath-tak­ing process must be done strictly by the book and noth­ing can be added or changed be­fore, dur­ing or af­ter speak­ing the oath. In the writ­ten judg­ment, it was stated, in essence, that there is an ob­jec­tive stan­dard for the be­hav­ior of oath-tak­ers. It listed in de­tail all the ac­tions and word­ings of each of the leg­is­la­tors con­cerned and how they de­vi­ated from the of­fi­cial oath and, thus, led to a breach of the oath-tak­ing law. The judge ex­plained his ar­gu­ment very clearly and log­i­cally and I be­lieve any­one in­ter­ested in the rul­ing would find it worth­while to read the writ­ten judg­ment in full. From a lay­man’s point of view, any­one who has seen the video record­ing of the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony would no doubt con­clude that the four mem­bers did not mean what they said and tried to amend and add con­tents to the word­ing to pub­li­cize their po­lit­i­cal views.

Af­ter all, the whole pur­pose of their the­atrics was to en­sure that ev­ery one of their sup­port­ers un­der­stands un­am­bigu­ously what they were try­ing to do.

Ob­vi­ously, the com­mu­nity’s views on this rul­ing are mixed. Some re­joiced at the chance to pun­ish those who dis­re­spect our coun­try, oth­ers were an­gry that the court dis­qual­i­fied their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives. How­ever, it was note­wor­thy that this rul­ing has caught the op­po­si­tion camp off guard and they were un­sure how to re­act to it. In the af­ter­noon fol­low­ing the rul­ing, they held a press con­fer­ence vow­ing to ap­peal in the courts and de­clared they would not con­tinue “busi­ness as usual” in the leg­is­la­ture any­more, what­ever that means. Re­gard­less of the rul­ing, the op­po­si­tion has long been try­ing to fil­i­buster any ma­jor gov­ern­ment bills and fund­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. They kept ask­ing repet­i­tive and mean­ing­less ques­tions in an at­tempt to de­lay leg­isla­tive pro­ce­dures. As a re­sult, few bills have passed and there is a huge back­log of items at the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, such as new fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion, im­prov­ing health­care and con­struc­tion of new towns. If such be­hav­ior was al­ready “busi­ness as usual”, I won­der what they might try to do next, maybe grind the leg­is­la­ture to a com­plete halt?

More­over, the op­po­si­tion keeps on ac­cus­ing the gov­ern­ment of po­lit­i­cal op­pres­sion and rewrit­ing elec­tion re­sults. Yet, they con­ve­niently omit the fact that pre­vi­ous lo­cal court rul­ing in 2004, prior to the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion, has re­it­er­ated that mem­bers must com­ply with the le­gal re­quire­ment ac­cu­rately and com­pletely, as well as to read the oath pre­scribed by law. Since the rule of law is such an im­por­tant core value of Hong Kong, the op­po­si­tion dare not pub­licly crit­i­cize the judge or his rul­ing. How­ever, their ac­tions speak louder than words. De­spite the fact that the judge is­sued an in­junc­tion or­der for­bid­ding the four peo­ple from ex­er­cis­ing the rights of leg­isla­tive mem­bers, such as at­tend­ing coun­cil or com­mit­tee meet­ings, they, with the help of other op­po­si­tion mem­bers, tried to force their way into the con­fer­ence room on Satur­day. As the LegCo pres­i­dent has said pub­licly, these ac­tions may be re­garded as con­tempt of court.

From a po­lit­i­cal point of view, it is ex­pected the op­po­si­tion par­ties need to take dras­tic ac­tion to ap­pease the hard­lin­ers within their fac­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, that would go against the coura­geous ef­forts by the new chief ex­ec­u­tive, in ac­cor­dance with the spirit of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s speech on July 1, to ac­tively en­gage with the op­po­si­tion by seek­ing broad com­mon ground while set­ting aside ma­jor dif­fer­ences. Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor used very mild words when com­ment­ing on the rul­ing and re­stated that she had no in­ten­tion to file ad­di­tional court cases.

This rul­ing would no doubt cre­ate ad­di­tional ob­sta­cles to re­duc­ing po­lar­iza­tion and build­ing a har­mo­nious so­ci­ety. The gov­ern­ment has ex­tended the olive branch, it is now up to the op­po­si­tion to calm down and de­cide whether to ac­cept it.

The gov­ern­ment has ex­tended the olive branch, it is now up to the op­po­si­tion to calm down and de­cide whether to ac­cept it.

David Wong The author is an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the New Peo­ple’s Party and a for­mer civil ser­vant.

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