Hong Kong’s high court has banned two young pro-independence activists from the city’s parliament, plunging the former British colony deeper into an intensifying political crisis.
One week after Beijing issued a highly unusual ruling designed to stop the newly elected politicians taking office, the court on Tuesday told Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio “Sixtus” Leung, 30, that they had been disqualified from their positions.
The judge Thomas Au Hing-cheung ruled that the pair, who launched a dramatic anti-China protest during their swearing-in ceremony last month, could no longer take up their seats since they had “manifestly refused … to solemnly, sincerely and truly bind themselves” to Hong Kong’s laws.
During that ceremony, Yau and Leung, who have both called for a complete split with mainland China, altered the text of their oaths, declaring allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation”. They also unfurled banners that said “Hong Kong is not China” and used an expletive to refer to China.
The protest enraged officials in Beijing and led Hong Kong’s chief executive to launch an unprecedented legal challenge, seeking to remove the pair from office.
Legislators must swear allegiance to “the Hong Kong special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China”, according to the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
But the judge ruled that acting “in concert and deliberately” the pair had made “a willful and deliberate attempt … to insult China” during the ceremony and had not sought to suggest otherwise.
His ruling said unchallenged evidence showed Yau and Leung had sought to promote Hong Kong’s independence from China as well as “to make a mockery of China and the People’s Republic of China in a derogatory and humiliating manner”.
Speaking outside the court after the verdict, with Yau by his side, Leung said: “The judgment simply reflects that the elections in Hong Kong are meaningless and their result can be easily overturned by the government.”
“We have no hesitation that we will go forward with an appeal,” he added, choking back tears. “We have no regrets in taking our part in defending Hong Kong.”
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From The South China Morning Post
A wilful attempt to insult China, advocate independence and make a mockery of the Legco oath – that was the damning verdict of a judge on Tuesday in a ruling that stripped two localist lawmakers of their seats.
Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung said an oath must be taken solemnly and sincerely under the doctrine of common law, as it represented one’s promise to bear true allegiance to a particular government and support its constitution.
“It is not a mere formality or empty form of words,” he wrote.
He said the speech and actions of Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang fell short of solemnity and even suggested contempt.
In the 56-page judgment, Au wrote that when Yau dropped the “f” word to replace “republic” in the nation’s name during the ceremony on October 12, “the inevitable inference is the contempt she showed for the People’s Republic of China as the ‘one country’ in the ‘one country, two systems’ concept which is fundamental to the Basic Law”.
Au added that Yau had repudiated any allegiance to the city as an inalienable part of China.
On the pair’s mispronouncing of China as “Chee-na”, Au noted the word was a derogatory term used by the Japanese to refer to China in the war, suggesting they refused to pledge allegiance.
Since the term was often used by anti-Chinese organisations, such as those who promote Taiwanese independence, “Mr Leung and Ms Yau thus conveyed the message that they advocated independence of Hong Kong”.
As they each uttered the expression three times, it could not be “the result of mere inadvertence, ignorance or mistake”, but was a wilful and deliberate attempt by both to insult China, advocate independence for Hong Kong and make a mockery of the contents of the Legco oath.
They also displayed a banner that said “Hong Kong is not China” at the swearing-in – again promoting independence.
Leung also crossed his fingers when he took the oath, “intending to send a message of not taking the oath seriously or with a clear conscience, and that he was intending to tell a lie”.
They “manifested a clear intention not to be bound in conscience to perform faithfully and truthfully the oath as required by Basic Law Article 104 and the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance”.
The pair’s lawyers suggested the court should not meddle with the legislature in light of the common law’s non-intervention principle. In Britain, for example, parliament enjoys supremacy.
But Au said that in Hong Kong the Basic Law was regarded as supreme. So the court had jurisdiction to step in if the legislature had flown in the face of the Basic Law.
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