Hong Kong court verdict a lesson for pro-independence groups

By Ling De in Hong Kong and Liu Xin in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/14 23:58:39 Last Updated: 2017/7/15 7:38:00

Media staff wait outside the High Court in Hong Kong, south China, Nov. 15, 2016. File photo: Xinhua

The High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) on Friday disqualified legislators Law Kwun-chung, Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai and Yiu Chung-yim from office over invalid oaths, a move experts said will help safeguard the spirit of rule of law and send an alarm to pro-independence groups.

The court ruled that the oaths the four took on October 12, 2016 at a swearing-in ceremony of the new Legislative Council (LegCo) were unlawful and of no effect. The disqualification is effective from October 12, 2016, according to the court.

On October 12, 2016, Lau deliberately took her oath in a slow-paced manner, while Law, Leung and Yiu read out extra words that are not included in the LegCo oath according to the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance of Hong Kong, or read the oath in an abnormal tone.

The Department of Justice of Hong Kong SAR government submitted an application for a judicial review to the High Court on December 2, 2016, requesting the court to rule whether the four LegCo members' oaths comply with the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR and whether they are still qualified to serve.

Leung Mei-fun, a member of the LegCo, was quoted by the Hong Kong-based Takungpao newspaper on Friday as saying that the decision of the High Court, which demonstrates the spirit of the rule of law and the solemnity of the LegCo, is in accordance with the regulation of the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

The National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, endorsed a finalized interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR on November 7, which stipulates that lawmakers must, in accordance with the law, take an oath to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR as part of the People's Republic of China.

"The result of the judgment shows that the court paid more attention to the solemnity and sanctity of the oath. Whoever wants to play tricks during the oath, even minor ones, would be regarded as going against the Basic Law and regional laws in Hong Kong," Chan Hoi-man, a research fellow from the Hong Kong-based think tank AcademiaHK, told the Global Times on Friday.

The pro-independence group has always emphasized that these people were "elected by the people," and through the verdict the court told the public that although being elected by the people, they have no privilege, Chan said.

The High Court also admitted that the NPC Standing Committee has the authority for the interpretation of the Basic Law, which would strike a blow to those who slander the NPC Standing Committee for undermining the rule of law, Chan said.

The High Court previously announced in April that Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-Ching lost their seats for "declining to take the oath" during the ceremony for the sixth LegCo Hong Kong SAR on October 12, 2016, and they are banned from entering the LegCo.

Tian Feilong, assistant professor at Beijing-based Beihang University, told the Global Times that the verdict clearly told pro-independence groups in Hong Kong that there is no future for them in Hong Kong.

"Even if they enter the government by making stunts or launching movements, they would be eventually rejected since they go against the 'one-country, two systems' policy and the Basic Law," Tian said.

"The pro-independence activists may learn lessons from the verdict - they should not act wildly against the law and public opinion in future. And the government would organize a by-election for the vacant seats, and there might be chaos within the pro-independence group due to their disunity," Chan said.

Chan also said that organizing protests has become a routine for these people but there will be fewer people to join them since they have only themselves to blame this time.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor,  was quoted by Hong Kong media on Friday as saying that the government would wait until the whole judicial process was completed before organizing by-elections to fill the four vacated seats.


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