Disqualified legislators will not change their spots
It is most disturbing to read that some, if not all, the recently disqualified legislators are considering standing in forthcoming by-elections in order to return to Hong Kong’s legislature after their removal for unruly and disrespectful oathtaking capers in October last year. The saying “a leopard never changes its spots” might have originated in the Bible 2,700 years ago but one would suggest it does fit the description of all the disqualified legislators.
Can Hong Kong afford to have these individuals stand for election again and risk history repeating itself with even greater uncertainties and damage to the legislature and special administrative region?
One doubts very much that any of them would behave differently this time round. They will no doubt declare their allegiance with cringed teeth but once formalities are over, they will resume their disruptive behavior in the Legislative Council chamber. For it is common knowledge that “people don’t change they just find new ways to lie”.
Let’s examine the facts from even when the disqualified legislators were not present in the ultimate session of the Legislative Council before its summer recess, their “pan-democratic” colleagues demonstrated no hesitancy in raising threats that it could no longer be “business as usual” after the chief executive refused to consider taking executive powers in discharging the disqualified legislators of their legal responsibilities. They threatened the LegCo president, saying they would resort to non-cooperative tactics in order to delay proceedings of future funding proposals.
Have these people forgotten their roles as legislators were to serve the best interests of the SAR’s citizens rather than to act as apologists for others’ illegal antics? They have definitely acted in contravention of the principle of democracy and the rule of law. Their erroneous suggestions will not only undermine the SAR’s judicial independence and that of the chief executive but have also exposed their political naivety and selfishness.
Article 104 of the Basic Law, with the benefits of its definitive and unequivocal explanations provided by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, clearly states that the SAR’s elected legislators are required to “uphold the Basic Law of the SAR” and to “swear allegiance to the HKSAR”. It further confirmed that the same principle should also apply to, and I quote, “legal requirements and preconditions for standing for election in respect of or taking up the public office specified in the article”.
One would strongly argue that it is time for the SAR’s Electoral Affairs Commission to consider the best way to enforce these “legal requirements and preconditions”. This is to ensure prospective candidates with a record of not upholding the Basic Law and proven behavior of inability to swear allegiance to the HKSAR will have their applications rejected forthwith.
“Public office” referred to in the article included the “chief executive, principle officers, Executive and
Legislative Council members, judges at all levels and other members of the judiciary”. Should disqualified legislators wish to sign up and take part in forthcoming by-elections, one wonders how these discredited individuals would suddenly change their “spots” in the space of a few months since they have frequently and consistently behaved in a manner exactly opposite to what’s required of them in the legislature for years, and in one case for nearly two decades.
Article 75 of the Basic Law refers to the Rules of Procedure of LegCo and its rule No 42 “Behavior of members during meeting” had been in place for 20 years. It clearly states, and I quote, “during a meeting of the council all members shall enter or leave the council properly attired and with decorum”. It went on to state that “no member shall cross the floor of the council unnecessarily”. One needs to be reassured that “properly attired” means not wearing T-shirts with derogatory remarks printed on them. One would also want to have reassurance that future legislators will not enter the council with their paraphernalia of posters, billboards or even umbrellas. The president of the council must be able to exercise authority empowered in the said Rules of Procedures in order to maintain the orderly proceedings of the legislature.
Crossing the floor of the LegCo, shouting abuse and throwing papers all over the chamber, using abusive language, seizing documents from public officers, standing rather than sitting during proceedings were all departures from the rules that one hopes would disappear in the council.
In Britain, the weekly 30-minute exchanges between the prime minister and leader of the opposition when parliament sits is a demonstration of democracy at work. A robust and orderly chamber is good for democracy and the rule of law. Those with a history of breaking the rules and procedures of meeting, flagrant breach of protocol and politeness, acting abusively and with disrespect should not be allowed to stand, not to mention to be elected into any legislature.
LegCo needs measures to safeguard that the Basic Law is being observed, its rules of procedure are followed and freedom of speech for all is respected. Enough is enough! It is high time potential “leopards” are screened out and never allowed to contaminate the SAR’s legislature again with their abhorrent “spots”.