HK lawyers stage silent march over Beijing's move

Members of Hong Kong's legal community and law students from the University of Hong Kong gather outside the city's High Court during a silent march. The move to interpret the Basic Law has sparked fears that China is tightening its grip on the city a
Members of Hong Kong's legal community and law students from the University of Hong Kong gather outside the city's High Court during a silent march. The move to interpret the Basic Law has sparked fears that China is tightening its grip on the city and eroding its autonomy.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

More than 3,000 people in the legal profession and some members of the public marched silently to the city's highest court last night, in protest against Beijing's interference in Hong Kong's judicial system.

The protest came a day after the mainland's top legislative body - the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) - handed down an interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini- Constitution. It effectively bars two pro-independence lawmakers, Mr Sixtus Leung, 30, and Ms Yau Wai Ching, 25, from taking office by invalidating their swearing-in oaths.

However, local reports said up to 10 lawmakers may have their oaths invalidated as a result of the NPCSC move. Pro-Beijing lawmakers issued a statement on Monday calling for a review of the validity of the oath-taking of all lawmakers in the light of the interpretation.

Protesters who joined in the silent march yesterday dressed in black and walked from the High Court to the Court of Final Appeal.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok, one of the organisers of the march, said the turnout sent a very clear message that "the legal profession is standing together with Hong Kong people, and will not accept such use of the interpretation power by the NPCSC".

The NPCSC's move clearly damages the city's "one country, two systems" framework and the separation of power, added Mr Kwok.

The move to interpret the Basic Law has sparked fears that China is tightening its grip on the city and eroding its autonomy.

It came after Mr Leung and Ms Yau pledged allegiance to the "Hong Kong nation" and displayed a banner that read "Hong Kong is not China" during a swearing-in ceremony last month. The pair had also pronounced China as "Cheena" in the swearing-in oath, which was deemed demeaning to China. Because of that, their oaths were declared invalid by the Legislative Council (Legco) president.

The president's decision to let the pair retake their oaths is under a judicial review brought by Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying.

Law student Jason Wong, 21, who joined the march, said: "Beijing should not try to interfere in Legco matters... Hong Kong judges are capable of making a judgment for a simple oath-swearing case. It is important that we protect Hong Kong's judicial independence."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'HK lawyers stage silent march over Beijing's move'. Print Edition | Subscribe