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Wednesday, March 1, 2017, 17:00

Lawmakers in court for oath-taking review

By Willa Wu in Hong Kong

Government seeks to disqualify four LegCo members

Lawmakers in court for oath-taking review
The sun reflects off the outer wall of the High Court in Hong Kong on March 28, 2012. (Photo / AFP)

The High Court on Wednesday began a three-day hearing of a judicial review to challenge the eligibility of four lawmakers who allegedly did not follow stipulated requirements when they took their oaths to serve in the Legislative Council in October last year.

The four lawmakers are Lau Siu-lai, Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim.

The four lawmakers should be disqualified from their pubic office as their conduct during the swearing-in ceremony was “intentional and had undermined the solemnity and sincerity of oath-taking”

Johnny Mok Shiu-luen, Senior Counsel

In the opening submission, Senior Counsel Johnny Mok Shiu-luen, representing the government, said the four lawmakers should be disqualified from their pubic office as their conduct during the swearing-in ceremony was “intentional and had undermined the solemnity and sincerity of oath-taking”, thus violating the city’s mini-constitution – the Basic Law.

Mok noted that according to the recent National People's Congress (NPCSC) Standing Committee interpretation of the Basic Law Article 104, oath-taking had requirements on three aspects – solemnity, sincerity, and form and substance.

READ MORE: Hearing on 4 Hong Kong lawmakers' eligibility adjourned

Conduct displayed by the four defendants, including straying from the prescribed oath by inserting extra words, prolonging the oath and rising tones when reading some particular words, showed clearly that they failed to fulfill the law’s requirements, Mok said.

Healso pointed out that the four defendants had conducted such behavior with full awareness. “The test is whether the non-compliance was intentional,” Mok said.

Freedom of speech, which was used by some defendants to defend their behavior, did not apply in a solemn occasion such as an oath-taking ceremony, which had only one purpose which was to swear a pledge of allegiance to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the People’s Republic of China.

Mok also stressed that the court should be final arbitrator in handling the case as it concerned a constitutional requirement.

Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung presided over the hearing.

READ MORE: Stop abuse of legal aid and judicial review

This is the second judicial review lodged by the government in seeking to disqualify lawmakers on grounds of invalid oath-taking.

In a separate case, Justice Au disqualified two pro-independence lawmakers – YauWai-ching and Leung Chung-hang- on November 15 last year after the pair failed to follow the law’s requirements on oath-taking. In passing down the ruling, the judge said the “oath is not a mere formality or empty form of words”.

During the LegCo swearing-in ceremony in October last year one of the four defendants in the current case Lau had allegedly deliberately prolonged the oath, and later openly admitted over social media that she had done so to show disrespect.

Another defendant, Nathan Law, allegedly used strange tones when swearing allegiance to the SAR and the country as required by the Basic Law.

Two other lawmakers, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Edward Yiu, had allegedly strayed from the stipulated oath by interpolating words expressing their political views.

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