Hong Kong rebel lawmakers in court over oath-taking

Govt lawyers call for ban on duo taking up Legco seats, say Beijing not asked to step in

HONG KONG • Two Hong Kong lawmakers who advocate a split from China should be banned from taking up their seats, government lawyers argued in court yesterday.

As a judicial review seeking to disqualify Ms Yau Wai Ching and Mr Sixtus "Baggio" Leung from the legislature kicked off in Hong Kong's High Court yesterday, the government's counsel insisted that the authorities had not asked Beijing to step in.

"The issues... should be solved in the judicial system," said lawyer Benjamin Yu.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, who brought the case against the pair, said earlier this week that he could not rule out the possibility that Beijing might get involved.

Local media reports said China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress Standing Committee, could issue an "interpretation" of Hong Kong's Constitution next Monday relating to the case.

But Mr Yu said the Hong Kong government had not received any confirmation of that happening.

He argued that Mr Sixtus Leung and Ms Yau should not be allowed to take up their seats in the Legislative Council (Legco) - the city's lawmaking body - because they failed to swear allegiance to Hong Kong as an "inalienable part of China" at an oath-taking ceremony three weeks ago.

TAKE THE OATH OR BE GONE

Our case is that Leung and Yau had been duly requested to take the Legco oath on Oct 12 this year and they declined... If you do not believe Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China, then you have no business in the Legco.

LAWYER BENJAMIN YU

Instead, they draped themselves in "Hong Kong is not China" flags and altered the wording of their oaths, including derogatory terms and expletives.

"Our case is that Leung and Yau had been duly requested to take the Legco oath on Oct 12 this year and they declined," Mr Yu told the court. "If you do not believe Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China, then you have no business in the Legco."

Ms Yau and Mr Sixtus Leung won seats in citywide polls last month, in which a number of new lawmakers advocating self-determination or independence swept to victory.

Legco president Andrew Leung initially agreed to give them a second chance at taking their oaths.

But that decision is being challenged in court by Mr Leung Chun Ying and Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen, a move which critics said shows the executive branch riding roughshod over the legislature.

Mr Andrew Leung, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, is a defendant in the case, alongside Mr Sixtus Leung and Ms Yau. His lawyer argued yesterday that he had been "unnecessarily and wrongly" brought into the proceedings.

Lawyers for Ms Yau and Mr Sixtus Leung said the Legco should be able to make an independent decision about their oaths.

"(It is) not a matter for the court, it is a matter entirely within the walls of the Legco," said Mr Hectar Pun, representing Mr Sixtus Leung.

The Hong Kong Bar Association has warned against any interference in the court process by Beijing, saying that it would "deal a severe blow to the independence of the judiciary".

But China's state-run newspaper Global Times yesterday cited legal experts expressing support for a move by Beijing.

An interpretation by Beijing would "end the constitutional crisis and paralysis within the Legco, giving clear and stable guidance on (the implementation of) the Basic Law (Hong Kong's Constitution)", it quoted Beihang University legal expert Tian Feilong as saying.

The Legco descended into chaos for the third consecutive week on Wednesday after the two localist lawmakers tried to force their way into the chamber to take their oaths, having been temporarily barred pending the judicial review.

Six security staff were injured during the clashes.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2016, with the headline 'Hong Kong rebel lawmakers in court over oath-taking'. Print Edition | Subscribe