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Friday, November 25, 2016, 00:44

Disgraced lawmakers have to return remuneration

By Luis Liu

HONG KONG - The two disqualified lawmakers-elect have to return all the remuneration and allowances they received - about HK$1.9 million in total - to the Legislative Council, the legislature's president said after a special meeting on Thursday.

The LegCo Secretariat will issue a letter to the pair after their ongoing appeal against their disqualifications concludes, according to LegCo President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.

This decision comes a week after the city's High Court ruled that the pair, Sixtus Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, should vacate their seats after they violated the Basic Law and the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance. This is because they declined to take the LegCo oath in accordance with the law during their swearing-in on Oct 12.

The two disqualified lawmakers-elect have to return all the remuneration and allowances they received - about HK$1.9 million in total

The pair filed an appeal and will hear the verdict in the next few days.

The LegCo Commission decided to demand the two to return the monies received after a three-hour closed-door meeting on Thursday afternoon.

Andrew Leung said the rationale behind this decision was in accordance with the latest judicial interpretation adopted by the nation's top legislature – the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC). This was also based on the Basic Law's Article 104, which stipulates requirements for oath-taking procedures of senior officials, lawmakers and judges in Hong Kong.

"As the High Court did not rule on how LegCo should handle the public money given to the pair since they started work in LegCo, the commission relied on the NPCSC’s ruling in making the decision,” Leung said.

He added that since public money was involved, the commission had no choice but to take it very seriously.

According to the NPCSC interpretation, oath-taking is a legal prerequisite. It required procedures for public officers specified in Article 104 in order for them to assume office.

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 it.

As the High Court ruled the pair had declined to take the oath, they therefore lost the entitlements which a legislator can enjoy, Andrew Leung explained.

According to LegCo statistics, Yau and Sixtus Leung have to each return October's monthly remuneration of HK$95,000 they received as lawmakers-elect and a total of HK$834,000 in operating funds they each had received since Oct 1.

Andrew Leung said the LegCo would give the pair a reasonable period of time to repay the money.

Meanwhile, as discussion surfaced over the propriety of advancing operational funds when lawmakers-elect have not yet been successfully sworn-in, Andrew Leung said the LegCo Commission may discuss the possibility to change the current practices, through which money can be offered after legislators-elect take their oath lawfully.

The LegCo Secretariat told China Daily the LegCo Commission has no power to make such a change, and the authority lies in an advisory body to the government on remuneration system-related matters – the Independent Commission on Remuneration for Members of the Executive Council and Legislature, and Officials under the Political Appointment System of the HKSAR.

Moreover, the LegCo Commission also decided to ban assistants of LegCo members from entering meeting rooms when meetings of the House Committee and the Finance Committee occur. The move was to prevent incidents like the one which happened in early November in which Sixtus Leung, Yau and their assistants tried to storm a council meeting and injured several security guards at LegCo.

Also for safety reasons, limits will be imposed on the number of assistants who can enter the meeting room floors and the number of reporters and public members in press areas. Details are to be confirmed after discussions with LegCo members and press representatives.

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