Rule of law should not be blackmailed by politics
Criticizes cries of ‘political repression’ — even from some members of the legal profession — over the court’s decision to disqualify four lawmakers
It goes without saying that the rule of law is the core value of Hong Kong. The unfortunate reality, however, is that the rule of law is often abused in cases where certain individuals’ vested interests are “threatened”, as in the case of the oath-taking saga, which has resulted in disqualification of four more anti-establishment lawmakers — Law Kwun-chung, Lau Siu-lai, Yiu Chung-yim and Leung Kwok-hung. The horror that follows is the unjustifiably illogical nature of opinions given by some anti-establishment lawmakers and, God forbid, individuals from the legal profession. And, lo and behold, even Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun felt obliged to openly rap the ruling, calling it a wanton disregard for the rights of the 127,000 citizens who voted for the disqualified lawmakers, as well as an act of “political oppression” by the previous and current administrations.
To understand the sheer absurdity of the oath-taking saga, one needs to take a look at the solemnity entailed by an oath, or a vow. More than 40,000 marriage vows are taken by husbands- and wives-to-be in Hong Kong every year. In the witness of the celebrant, the vow-takers are obliged to read the standard vow, verbatim, as a procedure to solemnize their marriage — few would risk undermining the integrity of the occasion by spontaneous, gratuitous addition of their own statements. Yet, in swearing their dedication and loyalty to serve the best interests of Hong Kong, the anti-establishment lawmakers have pulled a theatrical stunt to manifest their political stance through additional wording in their oath, despite obviously knowing such behavior would not be condoned.
What we have here is justice being served, and oath-takers who deviate from standard protocol are duly punished with disqualification. The four lawmakers’ futile defense in calling the disqualification “political oppression” is infuriating. Now, it surely boggles the mind which part of the entire oath-taking saga constitutes “oppression”: Nobody pointed a gun at their heads to dishonor their oathtaking ceremony; these were 100 percent voluntary antics conducted on their own terms, and the final ruling was delivered by a judge well-versed in law.
In fact, Judge Thomas Au Hingcheung’s ruling was based on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law: “No public office shall be assumed, no corresponding powers and functions shall be exercised, and no corresponding entitlements shall be enjoyed by anyone who fails to lawfully and validly take the oath or who declines to take the oath”; and “Oath-taking must comply with the legal requirements in respect of its form and content. An oath-taker must take the oath sincerely and solemnly, and must accurately, completely, and solemnly read out the oath prescribed by law, the content of which includes: ‘Will uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.’ ” All things considered, the judge was only doing his job, in respect of law.
Despite the judicially valid ruling, anti-establishment lawmakers — in their attempt to politicize what is supposed to be a strictly legal issue — blatantly claimed the disqualification of the four lawmakers concerned is the government’s “declaration of war” on the people. In open contempt of the court ruling, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law went on to make his five requests on social media: that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will not recover the legal costs from the four lawmakers, that the by-elections will not be combined, that no more lawmakers be disqualified, that Article 23 will not be enacted, and the procedural rules for the Legislative Council will not be amended. If such propositions aren’t outrageously unprofessional and nonsensical, then it is only fair that the chief executive also be entitled to strike a deal with “pan-democrat” lawmakers: End all filibustering or all lawmakers from the opposing camp will be disqualified. But of course, as law-abiding citizens, we cannot allow that to happen either — we must respect judicial independence, and voters will not condone such malignant contempt of the rule of law.
As if offering us a glimmer of hope that the rule of law and common sense still prevail, members of the public have filed for the disqualification of two other “pan-democrat” lawmakers — Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Cheng Chung-tai — as well. While HK$18 million is much to repay, perhaps it could serve as a wakeup call to the disqualified lawmakers that consequences do come with the liberties they take with the oath.
What we have here is justice being served, and oath-takers who deviate from standard protocol are duly punished with disqualification. The four lawmakers’ futile defense in calling the disqualification ‘political oppression’ is infuriating.
The author is president of Wisdom Hong Kong, a local think tank.