Hong Kong's legislature in limbo as two lawmakers demand to take oath

Newly elected lawmakers Yau Wai-ching (left) and Baggio Leung (right) prepare to hold a press conference after they were not allowed to take their Legislative Council oaths in Hong Kong on Oct 26, 2016.
Newly elected lawmakers Yau Wai-ching (left) and Baggio Leung (right) prepare to hold a press conference after they were not allowed to take their Legislative Council oaths in Hong Kong on Oct 26, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Hong Kong's legislature looks set to remain in limbo for weeks, if not months, until a court reaches a decision on a judicial review filed by the government to stop two pro-independence lawmakers from taking their oath of office.

The court will hold its first hearing next Thursday.

It all started when Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying mounted an unprecedented legal move to challenge Legislative Council president Andrew Leung's powers to allow the pair - Mr Sixtus Baggio Leung and Ms Yau Wai Ching - to retake the oath.

Both had their oath invalidated at the swearing-in ceremony on Oct 12 after they used words insulting to China and displayed a banner that read "Hong Kong Is Not China".

It could take more than 300 days before a ruling is known, Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said at a press conference on Wednesday after chaos erupted in the Legco.

"How are we going to wait and how long are those electors going to wait for their representatives to represent them in Legco?" Ms Chan asked.

The two legislators from the Youngspiration party were supposed to retake their oath on Wednesday, but the Legco president changed his mind and also decided to bar them from the chamber for the time being.

"Beijing is determined to bar them because both of them have violated the Basic Law and the local ordinances. To allow them into Legco would be an insult to the country," said Professor Lau Siu Kai, vice-chairman of the semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies.

On Wednesday, the pair forced their way into the Legco chamber and demanded to be allowed to retake their oath of office. Pandemonium broke out as the pan-democrats pressed Mr Leung, the Legco chief, to uphold the rules of procedure and the constitutional rights of the newly elected lawmakers and allow the two to take their oath. Mr Leung eventually halted the session.

The Youngspiration lawmakers have vowed to force their way into the chamber again at the next Legco session, scheduled for next Wednesday, the eve of the court hearing.

Yesterday, 26 pro-democracy lawmakers endorsed a letter calling for Mr Leung to resign as Legco president, accusing him of putting the legislature in limbo.

Joyce Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'Legco in limbo as 2 lawmakers demand to take oath'. Print Edition | Subscribe