HK’s anti-China law­mak­ers lose ap­peal over seat ban

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Two pro-in­de­pen­dence Hong Kong law­mak­ers lost their ap­peal yes­ter­day against a ban pre­vent­ing them from tak­ing up their seats in par­lia­ment as Bei­jing faces ac­cu­sa­tions of step­ping up in­ter­fer­ence in the city’s pol­i­tics. Bag­gio Le­ung and Yau Wai-ching de­lib­er­ately mis­read their oaths of of­fice, in­serted ex­ple­tives and draped them­selves with “Hong Kong is not China” flags dur­ing a swearingin cer­e­mony in Oc­to­ber.

Speak­ing af­ter yes­ter­day’s judg­ment, an an­gry Le­ung said the “in­vis­i­ble hand” of Bei­jing had in­ter­vened in Hong Kong’s af­fairs. Le­ung and Yau were voted in to par­lia­ment in city­wide polls in Septem­ber which saw sev­eral rebel can­di­dates take seats for the first time, ad­vo­cat­ing ei­ther in­de­pen­dence or self-deter­mi­na­tion for Hong Kong.

The new move­ment sup­port­ing a pos­si­ble split from Bei­jing for the semi­au­tonomous city has gained trac­tion as young pro-democ­racy cam­paign­ers grow in­creas­ingly frus­trated with a lack of po­lit­i­cal re­form. Bei­jing hit out at the pair in a spe­cial “in­ter­pre­ta­tion” of the city’s con­sti­tu­tion ear­lier in Novem­ber that ef­fec­tively pre­vented them from tak­ing up their seats be­cause of the way they took the oath.

Fol­low­ing Bei­jing’s protest, Hong Kong’s High Court ruled the two law­mak­ers should be dis­qual­i­fied from the leg­is­la­ture be­cause their oaths were in­valid, in an un­prece­dented ju­di­cial re­view brought by the city’s leader and jus­tice sec­re­tary. Yau and Le­ung ap­pealed, but lost out yes­ter­day in a judg­ment that took Bei­jing’s rul­ing into ac­count, amid crit­i­cism that the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers in Hong Kong has been com­pro­mised.

The Court of Ap­peal’s judg­ment re­ferred to Bei­jing’s rul­ing as giv­ing the “true mean­ing” to the part of the con­sti­tu­tion that re­quires law­mak­ers to take an oath of al­le­giance to Hong Kong as a spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion of China. The judg­ment said the court’s duty to ap­ply the city’s con­sti­tu­tion, known as the Ba­sic Law, out­weighed the doc­trine of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers and non-in­ter­ven­tion.

Yau and Bag­gio were orig­i­nally of­fered a sec­ond chance at tak­ing the oath by the pres­i­dent of the leg­is­la­ture, but Bei­jing stepped in to prevent that. Its spe­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Ba­sic Law ruled that any oath-taker who does not fol­low the pre­scribed word­ing of the oath, “or takes the oath in a man­ner which is not sin­cere or not solemn”, should be dis­qual­i­fied.

Yes­ter­day’s ap­peal judg­ment said there could be “no dis­pute” that Yau and Le­ung had de­clined to take the oath. Le­ung said he did not be­lieve he had done any­thing wrong. “The way the oath in­ci­dent has de­vel­oped from an affair within Hong Kong to what it is now is un­ex­pected to us all,” he told re­porters. Le­ung said the pair were ac­tively con­sid­er­ing their next step but had not de­cided whether to pro­ceed to the Court of Fi­nal Ap­peal.

The judg­ment came as the gov­ern­ment an­nounced plans to take a third newly elected law­maker to court over her oath­tak­ing. The de­part­ment of jus­tice said it would ini­ti­ate pro­ceed­ings against teacher Lau Siu-lai, a prom­i­nent ac­tivist who made her name dur­ing the city’s mass prodemoc­racy ral­lies in 2014 and now ad­vo­cates self-deter­mi­na­tion for Hong Kong.

It gave no fur­ther de­tail on the grounds for the case. Lau’s oath was re­jected dur­ing her swear­ing in as she read the pledge at a snail’s pace, leav­ing long gaps be­tween ev­ery word. She was later given a sec­ond chance to read it and was able to take up her seat. Lau slammed the de­ci­sion to take her to court as “po­lit­i­cal sup­pres­sion”. — AFP

HONG KONG: Demo­crat­i­cally elected law­maker, teacher Lau Siu-lai (C), from the ‘Democ­racy Ground­work’ party, holds a press con­fer­ence with other law­mak­ers at the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil (Legco). — AFP

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