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Saturday, November 5, 2016, 09:26

NPCSC to discuss Basic Law interpretation

By Luis Liu

Top legislature may rule over Article 104 on swearing-in procedures of lawmakers, officials.

NPCSC to discuss Basic Law interpretation
Residents rally outside the Hong Kong Police Headquarters on Friday to protest against the two disgraced separatist lawmakerselect Sixtus Leung Chunghang and Yau Waiching and ask the police and Department of Justice to prosecute them. (Parker Zheng / China Daily)

The nation’s top legislative body over the weekend will discuss the question of interpreting Article 104 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law — pertaining to swearing-in procedures of senior public officers, lawmakers and judges in the SAR.

The chairpersons’ meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) moved the motion on Friday to consider the interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law during NPCSC meetings. A vote is likely to come on Monday morning before the NPCSC meetings close.

The imminent interpretation by the NPCSC is widely believed will clear the political gridlock in the city and stop separatists from paralyzing Legislative Council’s operations. This is after two separatist lawmakers-elect made a mockery of their LegCo oaths; a judicial review demanding that they vacate their seats is still ongoing.

The High Court finished a hearing on Thursday of a judicial review sought by the SAR government to disqualify the pair, Sixtus Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, for they altered the LegCo oath and used foul language to insult the nation during their swearing-in on Oct 12. The court has yet to hand down a ruling.

The two disgraced lawmakers-elect flatly refused to apologize for their offensive antics, and subsequently stormed into LegCo meetings. This was despite LegCo president’s order that they should not enter the chamber. Their unruly disruptions caused LegCo meeting adjournments, brought chaos and violence, and injured six security guards at LegCo on Wednesday.

Maria Tam Wai-chu, member of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee under the NPCSC, believed the chain of events had aroused concern from the central government. It was deemed significant as it “involved national unity and territorial integrity,” she explained.

The SAR government informed the High Court on Friday morning of the imminent interpretation by the NPCSC

The SAR government informed the High Court on Friday morning of the imminent interpretation by the NPCSC.

Article 104 of the Basic Law stipulates that when assuming office, the Chief Executive, principal officials, members of the Executive Council and of LegCo, judges of the courts at all levels and other members of the judiciary in Hong Kong must, in accordance with law, swear to uphold the Basic Law of the HKSAR of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). They must also swear allegiance to the HKSAR of the PRC.

Legal experts said the interpretation could help to address the contentious incident. Professor at the Research Center of Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Song Sio-chong said an NPCSC interpretation would help end the political wrangling and return LegCo to normal operations.

He said NPCSC has the constitutional right to make such a decisive move. And he believed the NPCSC uses the right as the last resort to fend off separatist advocates in public office in Hong Kong.

Song said he hoped the NPCSC interpretation would clarify ambiguities relating to sovereignty and against separatism.

Article 158 of the Basic Law says the power of interpretation of the Basic Law should be vested in the NPCSC.

Chairman of the Basic Law Institute Alan Hoo Hon-ching said separatism threatens national security and sovereignty, which may trigger national defense concerns. Thus the city’s court is not able to handle the threat on its own. Separatists in Hong Kong are jeopardizing the nation’s and the city’s security, he said.

Senior Counsel and former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said NPCSC issuing interpretations is part of Hong Kong’s legal system. All Hong Kong judges ought to follow the interpretations if there are any, Tong cautioned.

Former LegCo president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said the move showed that Beijing was seriously worried about the current situation.

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