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Thursday, November 10, 2016, 01:10

Legal challenges likely over more Legco members

By Willa Wu and Luis Liu
Legal challenges likely over more Legco members
Residents demonstrate outside the Legislative Council on Wednesday to support the interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Article 104 of the Basic Law and protest against the separatist lawmakers-elect. (Edmond Tang / China Daily)

HONG KONG - More legal challenges loom over the qualification for public office of several lawmakers as they allegedly altered the text of their oaths, which might have failed to meet the legal requirements of official swearing-in ceremonies in Hong Kong.

The latest interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law by the top legislature stipulates that Hong Kong's high-level officials, lawmakers and judges should pledge loyalty to the Basic Law, the Hong Kong SAR and the country in a sincere and solemn manner.

The words and deeds of some other legislators had turned the swearing-in ceremony into a "stunt", said an expert

Two lawmakers-elect Sixtus Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching altered their Legislative Council oath, added separatist expressions such as "Hong Kong nation" and used offensive language to insult China during their swearing-in on Oct 12 . A judicial review sought by the SAR government demanding they vacate their seats is ongoing.

Wang Zhenmin, head of the Legal Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR, said on Wednesday that the words and deeds of some other legislators had turned the swearing-in ceremony on Oct 12 into a "stunt". They deliberately used the solemn occasion as a stage to defy the legally binding oath and insult the country. "Their behavior is largely deemed to be insincere by the public," he added.

Wang was attending a seminar held by the country's top think tank on Hong Kong affairs – the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies – in Shenzhen. He reiterated that the National People's Congress Standing Committee's (NPCSC) interpretation will not undermine the city’s judicial independence. Indeed, Hong Kong still ranks fourth in rule of law worldwide based on academic studies.

Speaking at the same event on Wednesday, Chen Zuo’er, who chairs the association, discussed the behavior on a live TV broadcast during the LegCo members’ swearing-in ceremony on Oct 12. Their conduct showed their “oaths” could not be taken as a sincere or a solemn allegiance to the nation, to Hong Kong or to the Basic Law.

The antics included chanting separatist or self-determination slogans, holding objects, such as umbrellas, which are closely associated with law-breaking incidents, tearing up authoritative document and holding up the oath-taking procedures. A lawmaker did this by taking long pauses after each word, only to admit later on social media this was to point out the “hypocrisy of the oath”.

Chen said the NPCSC’s interpretation requires lawmakers-elect to swear to "solemnly and sincerely" uphold their oaths; but more lawmakers may have failed to comply.

Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheung Yuet-ngor informed LegCo President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen on Tuesday the government was aware members of the public were raising questions about the validity of other lawmakers’ oath-taking.

The government is studying the implications of the NPCSC’s interpretation on other lawmakers’ qualifications and the government reserves the right to act on relevant matters.

Deputy Director of the NPCSC's Basic Law Committee Elsie Leung Oi-sie said at a separate occasion on Wednesday that constitutionally local courts must follow the interpretations adopted by the nation's top legislature.

She hoped Hong Kong people could cherish the achievements that the city has made under the “One Country, Two Systems” policy.

The NPCSC announced an interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law on Monday. This requires public officers, lawmakers and judges in the SAR to take oaths in an accurate, sincere and solemn manner and pledge allegiance to the country and the SAR. Anyone who violates Article 104 could face instant disqualification.
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