Maria Tam’s latest comments on Legco oath row come as Hongkongers prepare to march against intervention by National People’s Congress
By Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post
Maria Tam is a Basic Law Committee member and Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, which is China’s top legislative body. Photo: Simon Song
If mainland Chinese were to stage a rally in support of Beijing’s intervention in the Hong Kong oath-taking controversy, its “turnout would be bigger than” that of Hong Kong’s protest on the matter later Sunday afternoon, a senior central government adviser claimed.
Maria Tam Wai-chu, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress and a member of its Basic Law Committee, was speaking hours before activists were set to march from Wan Chai to Central to protest against the NPC’s interpretation of Basic Law’s Article 104.
The article states that when lawmakers take office, they must swear allegiance to Hong Kong as part of China.
The interpretation is likely to be approved by the NPC’s Standing Committee on Monday morning, outlining the rules of oath-taking and asserting that non-compliance means disqualification.
Controversy erupted last month when two pro-independence lawmakers in Hong Kong, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, were accused of using derogatory language when referring to China when they were being sworn into office. Their oaths were invalidated.
In Beijing on Sunday, Tam was asked to comment on the rally in Hong Kong to be held later in the day.
“It’s not a problem,” she said. “If China allowed people to support the interpretation, the turnout would be larger than Hong Kong’s turnout” at the rally, she said.
Tam played down speculation that the interpretation would sow dissension in the city. “With the rule of law, society is not deeply divided,” she said. “Some isolated clashes are bound to be triggered by different political aspirations.”
State broadcaster CCTV reported that during the NPCSC’s meeting on Saturday, Beijing’s top legislators “unanimously agreed” on the intervention in order to safeguard Hong Kong’s stability.
Tam said she read several reports about the meetings on Saturday and that NPCSC members had agreed that “those who made false vows should bear legal responsibility” – referring to Leung and Yau.
The veteran Beijing adviser added it was possible that NPC deputies would read an updated version of the interpretation during a meeting on Sunday afternoon. But she did not expect it to vary greatly from the most recent draft.
“A significant change is not easy and is unlikely to happen,” she said.
Tam declined to say whether the interpretation would exert additional pressure on Hong Kong to create its own national security law as set forth by Article 23 of the Basic Law.
“It is Hong Kong’s responsibility,” she said. “No other country has given such a responsibility to a local government or legislature … the earlier we complete it the better as it would head off chaos in the city.”
Tags: autonomy, Basic Law, China, China's Communist Party, China's top legislative panel, Hong Kong, human rights, Legco oath row, Maria Tam, National People's Congress, one country two systems, refused to take an oath, Sixtus Leung,, Yau Wai-ching, Youngspiration