By Joyce Lim
Hong Kong Correspondent
The Straits Times
Holding over 25% of the votes, they aim to stop Beijing’s preferred candidate Carrie Lam
Hong Kong politics has been stormier than usual lately.
And, to cap it all off, the Beijing government has intervened directly with a legal ruling to disqualify two legislators – prompting government lawyers to say: “The headmaster has spoken.”
Yet, ironically, it’s a quieter, less dramatic event that shows the fundamental sticking point in Hong Kong politics.
Hong Kong has Election Committee elections on Sunday, but you could call them elections with Chinese characteristics.
A small proportion of Hong Kongers (246,440 out of Hong Kong’s 3.8 million registered voters) have the right to vote for people representing their professional sector – making up an Election Committee of 1,200 people. These 1,200 people are the only people who can vote on who becomes Hong Kong’s next leader.
And hundreds of seats – mostly in pro-Beijing sectors – have already been filled, because there were no elections, or the candidates ran unopposed.
The fact that this system is undemocratic is what drove tens of thousands of protesters to take over Hong Kong’s streets in 2014. The movement became known as “Occupy Central” – or, the “Umbrella Protests”, after protesters used umbrellas to shield themselves from pepper spray fired by the police.
The unprecedented – but mostly peaceful – protests lasted several weeks. The sight of students doing their homework while sat in the streets, or young protesters being teargassed by police, caught the attention of people around the world.
Yet, two years later, Hong Kong’s leader is about to be chosen by the same 1,200-person committee – and critics say that the protests failed to achieve any practical results – except, possibly, a more divided society.
This may not be completely fair. They were a political awakening for many young people in Hong Kong – and several have now become pro-democracy activists or won seats in September’s parliamentary elections.
But in practical terms, the so-called “Umbrella Protests” failed to achieve any concessions from Beijing.
The irony is that Hong Kong could have had direct elections for its leader in 2017.
The Chinese government had promised the territory universal suffrage – but said voters would only be able to choose from a list of two or three candidates, pre-vetted by a nominating committee dominated by pro-Beijing members.
Democracy activists derided this as “fake democracy”, and the proposal was voted down in parliament.
Hong Kong’s relationship with mainland China has been tense in recent years. AFP
Critics accuse Beijing of breaking two promises it made:
Did Beijing break the first promise? It depends on who you talk to. Clearly Beijing, and the democracy activists, have very different definitions of the terms “universal suffrage” “broadly representative” and “in accordance with democratic procedures”.
Similarly, the Chinese government would argue that Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy under the “One Country Two systems” model.
Tens of thousands have turned out to protests to support the Chinese government. AFP
But critics point to a series of recent events that have worried many Hong Kongers, including the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers, and artists and writers saying they are under increased pressure to self-censor.
Activists have accused Beijing of meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs with an “invisible hand”.
And it’s that perception of growing mainland Chinese influence that has propelled more young people into supporting independence, or arguing for more radical politics.
This also worries some Hong Kongers, who point out that protests organised by some radical groups have turned violent.
Anger at the Chinese authorities, and disillusionment with traditional pro-democracy parties, helped propel several new faces to victory in Hong Kong’s legislative council elections in September.
Amongst them were Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, from a pro-independence party set up after the Umbrella Protests, and Nathan Law, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu, who were all active in the protests.
Their success was hailed as a sign of Hong Kong’s new generation of democracy activists taking political power for the first time.
But then the government took Mr Leung and Ms Yau to court after they insulted China while being sworn in – and its argument was bolstered when Beijing also issued a controversial legal ruling that effectively invalidated their oaths.
Now, the government is using the same ruling in an attempt to disqualify Mr Law, Ms Lau and Mr Yiu, as well as “Longhair” Leung Kwok-hung, a veteran pro-democracy politician.
Clockwise from top left: Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai, Sixtus Leung, Yau Wai-ching, Nathan Law and Edward Yiu
So, just three months after winning elections, several of Hong Kong’s new political faces – who won a combined 185,727 votes – could be removed from power by a government that was not democratically elected.
It is against this backdrop that the Election Committee vote is taking place.
An unprecedented number of pro-democracy candidates are taking part this year and the pro-democracy camp hopes to win at least 300 seats, so it has more negotiating power over who becomes Hong Kong’s next leader.
But even with a quarter of the 1,200 seats, they will be massively outnumbered by pro-Beijing and pro-establishment groups, who are likely to vote for whichever candidate is backed by Beijing.
It will leave many in Hong Kong wondering: Was the partial democracy offered by Beijing in 2014 the better deal? Where do Hong Kong’s democrats go from here?
And, if the massive umbrella protests could not achieve political change – what will?
Updated Dec. 3, 2016 1:54 a.m. ET
Hong Kong’s government said Friday it was seeking to ban four pro-democracy legislators, in another move against opposition lawmakers that has already seen two barred from office.
The government said in a statement that it requested a court to declare the four legislators’ oaths of office invalid and vacate their seats. The legislators, Lau Siu-lai,Leung Kwok-hung,Edward Yiu, and Nathan Law, marched to the offices of Hong Kong’s chief executive to protest the move.
The government’s action is “total war launched against all democrats and all voters supporting democracy,” Mr. Law, a leader of Occupy Central protests in 2014, said in a statement.
On Wednesday, two other legislators, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung, lost an appeal of a court ruling banning them from office after they altered their oaths at a swearing-in ceremony in October. The two pledged allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” and displayed a banner stating, “Hong Kong is not China.”
Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung
In November, Beijing issued a rare interpretation of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, effectively barring Ms. Yau and Mr. Leung from office. Chinese officials said that talk of independence threatened the principle of “one country, two systems” under which Hong Kong has been governed since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law said that oaths of office must be taken sincerely and solemnly, with no alterations to substance.
Each of the four legislators targeted Friday had their own takes on the oath of office at the same October ceremony. Some added phrases to the oath. Ms. Lau delivered her oath at an exaggeratedly slow pace, while Leung Kwok-hung, a veteran pro-democracy activist known by the nickname “Long Hair,” held a yellow umbrella in a nod to the Occupy Central movement.
Write to Ned Levin at email@example.com
Nathan Law (left) and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung could face disqualificatio. Reuters
Hong Kong’s government is moving to disqualify four pro-democracy lawmakers from parliament.
The government is launching legal challenges against Nathan Law, Edward Yiu, Lau Siu-lai and Leung Kwok-hung, arguing that the oaths they took when being sworn in were invalid.
It comes after two pro-independence politicians were disqualified after they insulted China during their oaths.
Critics describe the latest move as politically motivated.
However, the government said in a statement the action was “purely based on legal and enforcement concerns” with “no political consideration involved”.
Mr Law, Mr Yiu and Ms Lau were part of a new wave of democracy activists elected in September, following Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy “umbrella protests”.
Mr Law described the move as an “orchestrated attack… against all democrats and all voters supporting democracy”.
This move from the government will be seen as highly controversial to many.
The government took Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung, two young pro-independence legislators, to court in October – in an unprecedented bid to disqualify democratically elected officials.
The government argued that because Ms Yau and Mr Leung used swear words, displayed banners saying “Hong Kong is not China” and used a term considered derogatory towards China as they were sworn in to parliament, their oaths were invalid and they should be disqualified.
Public opinion in Hong Kong was divided over that case – many were critical of the government’s involvement, but others were angered by the duo’s actions.
Tens of thousands of pro-Beijing protesters have demanded that Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung be disqualified. Getty Images
However, many more people are critical about the move against the four lawmakers now being targeted. Their oaths weren’t considered as controversial and the president of Hong Kong’s parliament had allowed them to take their seats.
Disqualified localist lawmakers Yau Wai-ching (left) and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang leave the High Court. Photo: Felix Wong
These four are also considered more moderate pro-democracy activists. They have not campaigned for Hong Kong’s independence from China.
In previous parliamentary sessions, lawmakers have also shouted pro-democracy slogans or protested while oath-taking, without being disqualified.
Who are the four – and how did they take their oaths?
Leung Kwok-hung ripped up an unpopular ruling from Beijing while reading his oath. AFP
Leung Kwok-hung, known by the nickname “Long Hair”, is a veteran pro-democracy politician. During his oath, he held a yellow umbrella – a symbol of the 2014 protests – varied his pace and shouted pro-democracy slogans after the reading.
Lau Siu-lai won elections after her performance in TV debates impressed voters. Reuters
Ms Lau is a university lecturer who took part in the 2014 umbrella protests.
She gave her oath in slow motion, pausing six seconds between each word, and later wrote on Facebook that she had done so because she felt the oath was meaningless.
Her oath was invalidated – but she was allowed to retake it later.
Nathan Law (right) was one of the students involved in the 2014 umbrella protests. AFP
Mr Law was one of the students taking part in the 2014 protests – and became Hong Kong’s youngest ever lawmaker when he won September’s parliamentary elections.
He quoted Mahatma Gandhi before taking his oath, saying: “You can never imprison my mind.”
He also altered his tone when pledging allegiance to the People’s Republic of China, making it sound like a question.
Edward Yiu added words supporting democracy to his oath. AP
Mr Yiu, a university professor, advised the students organising the 2014 protests. He added lines to his oath, saying he would “fight for genuine universal suffrage”.
His oath was rejected the first time – but he was allowed to retake it later.
Why is the government doing this now?
Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen (right) said that all legislators “should act in accordance with the law” AFP
Last month, the Chinese government issued a rare interpretation of Hong Kong’s law, saying that all oaths taken by office-holders must be “solemn, accurate, complete and sincere”, with no deviation from the official wording.
The move was widely seen as an attempt to disqualify the two pro-independence legislators, who had angered Beijing, and critics argued that it undermined Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
The government now argues that it has a duty to enforce the law, but Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen has not explained why some pro-Beijing legislators, who had also faced allegations that they varied their oaths, were not facing legal action.
Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching rush chamber floor, get barred from entering side room, and police and medical help sought
Key points today:
> The fourth meeting of the Legislative Council was adjourned by Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen around 1.30pm today after four security guards were hurt when they tried to block localist lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang from entering a conference room where the lawmaking body had relocated.
> At Andrew Leung’s request, a team of police officers arrived at the chaotic scene, and three security guards were sent to hospital.
> The Legco president rejected Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun’s request to move an urgent question about interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. To cited media reports the National People’s Congress Standing Committee was considering the possibility.
> In the main chamber, Andrew Leung suspended Legco’s meeting for 30 minutes at 11:30am and changed the meeting venue after the two localists stormed the chamber. The two had been banned from attending until they are formally sworn in.
> Localist Lau Siu-lai, whose original oath was invalidated because of the extremely slow manner in which she recited it, was successfully sworn in.
3.35pm – Andrew Leung condemns violence
Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen condemns the violent acts of the Youngspiration duo and their supporters. He says six security guards were injured in the row.
Leung says news that Beijing planned to interpret the Basic Law in order to settle the oath saga was premature. He says the Hong Kong court’s hearing of the oath-taking case is still on for tomorrow as far as he knows.
2pm – No contrition from Youngspiration duo
Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching appear unapologetic over the injuries, saying some assistants to other lawmakers were injured too. He says the Legco president and Secretariat should bear full responsibility for the chaos and injuries.
“I’ll send them my regards,” he says when asked whether he will apologise to the injured officers.
“I call on them not to take orders from bosses that are unreasonable and unlawful,” he adds. “They have a choice.”
The two say they only meant to enter the meeting room and perform their duties as lawmakers and did not mean to hurt anyone.
Leung explains why he and Yau changed their minds about staying away from the meeting and decided instead to storm the conference room – Andrew Leung’s rejection of James To’s motion to debate Beijing’s possible interpretation of the Basic Law.
“If the legislature cannot even debate this major issue, what is it doing here?” he asks.
1.50pm – ‘Totally unacceptable’
Pro-establishment lawmakers say after the meeting that the Legco Commission should hold an emergency meeting to discuss how to improve security arrangements to prevent security guards from being injured again.
DAB lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king says she was informed about the decision to call the police to intervene and that she agreed with it.
“Our security guards are not professional enough and they need help,” she says. “[The violence] is totally unacceptable and all those involved should be condemned.”
1.31pm – Carried out on stretchers
Four Legislative Council security employees are receiving medical help, with three being brought out on stretchers. One is given an oxygen mask.
In total, three security guards – one woman and two men – are being sent to hospital following the chaos.
1.25pm – ‘Is this Legco or a police station?’
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung tries to block police officers from entering the conference room.
“Is this Legco or a police station?” he asks.
Moments earlier, the radical pro-democracy lawmaker blasts Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen for notifying the police, calling the decision “a very serious and unreasonable event”.
1.20pm – Police arrive
At least seven police officers arrive at Legco following the chaos outside conference room 1. By law, police officers are not authorised to enter the legislature unless they are invited by the Legco president and the Secretary-General.
The officers include members of Police Tactical Unit. They have yet to explain their purpose.
1.16pm – Meeting adjourned
Legco president announces today’s meeting is adjourned. Next meeting is to be held next week.
1.11pm – A security guard faints
Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen tells media outside the conference room that a security guard has fainted and that the body’s Secretariat has filed a police report.
1.07pm – Another suspension
After Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Ronald Chan Ngok-pang reads out his answer to the first oral question and before lawmakers pose their follow-up questions, the Legco president suspends the meeting citing “the chaos outside”.
Outside the room, scuffles break out as Youngspiration tries to push through the security guards and storm the meeting. They swear at the guards, and more security guards are deployed.
1pm – ‘You’re breaking the law!’
Some people, who appeared to be backers of the localist group Youngspiration, are shouting at security guards outside the conference room where the Legislative Council is meeting. The guards had blocked the two localist lawmakers from entering the meeting room moments before.
“Don’t block us, aunties!” they chant at the female guards. “According to the powers and privileges ordinance, no one should block lawmakers from entering the meeting room. You are now breaking the law.”
12.59pm – Moving right along
After Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s ruling and the Youngspiration pair are prevented from entering, Democrat Ted Hui Chi-fung is allowed to ask the first oral question. Hui asks about irregularities in the Legislative Council elections.
12:55pm – Guess who’s back again?
Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, who after today’s suspended proceedings in the main chamber said they would not storm the council meeting again, attempt to enter the new meeting venue again, triggering more chaos.
12.54pm – No debate allowed
Several pan-democrats Wu Chi-wai and Claudia Mo urge the president to allow the motion, also saying the chief executive had hinted at the possibility of an interpretation by Beijing.
To this Andrew Leung says: “I have decided.”
“My ruling is not open to debate,” the Legco president adds. “If you want to clarify anything, do it on another occasion.”
12.52pm – And the first order of business…
Meeting resumes. Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen disallows Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun’s motion for a debate on interpreting Basic Law interpretation.
“Obviously, Councillor To’s request is based on media reports, not real happenings,” Leung says. “So I can’t approve it.”
To disagrees with Leung’s ruling. The lawmaker cites Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as saying that he would not “rule out the possibility” of interpreting the Basic Law.
12.42pm – Meeting resuming soon
Legco will reconvene in 10 minutes in conference room 1. Most lawmakers are getting ready in their seats.
12.09pm – Lo Wai-kwok calls for respect of rules
Pro-establishment lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok, representing the engineering sector, says he hopes lawmakers could respect council rules.
“If some people storm in the chamber, utter a lot of words and then say they have finished taking their oath, it is absolutely ridiculous,” he says.
12.04pm – ‘Beijing might encourage Hong Kong independence’
Baggio Leung says if Beijing does interpret the Basic Law, it would help the growth of Hong Kong independence. He says the “one country, two systems” principle and Hong Kong independence are two options Hongkongers have and that an interpretation would undermine the principle, and thus leave Hongkongers no option but to choose independence.
11.56am – Motion to debate Beijing’s possible interpretation
As the Legco meeting resumes in conference room 1, veteran Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun tables a motion calling for a debate on the National People’s Congress’ expected interpretation of the Basic Law regarding Youngspiration duo’s oath-taking.
Legco president Andrew Leung Kwun-yuen calls for another break so that he can consider whether to allow the debate.
11.50am – Baggio Leung holds forth
During the 30-minute break, Baggio Leung announces that he and Yau will not try again for now to enter conference room 1.
“I don’t want any journalists to get injured or encounter any danger,” he says.
Asked if he and Yau would stay away from the council meeting today, Leung says: “Please give us some time to think about what we’ll do next.”
The Youngspiration member says an interpretation by Beijing would “not only destroy democracy, but also our core values, separation of powers, everything”.
Leung dismissed concerns that he was jeopardising his seat in the city’s legislature.
“Our seats now only symbolise whether truth exists in Hong Kong,” he says. “I hope to prove to the court that we are right, otherwise we’ll question whether Hong Kong is still the place we knew.”
“I dare say it is not.”
11.50am – Pro-establishment leader criticises duo
Lawmaker and executive councillor Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, says the Youngspiration duo’s entering the chamber was disrespectful of the Legco president’s decision and prevented the council from discussing legislative affairs.
“I hope [the pair] will not enter by force again, and I hope the non-establishment lawmakers do not escort them into the council again,” she says.
She declines to comment on Beijing’s possible interpretation of the Basic Law.
Watch: Live from Legco, after localist pair were blocked in attempt to retake oaths
11.31am – If at first you don’t succeed…
Before the meeting resumes in Legco’s conference room 1 on the second floor, the Youngspiration duo take a lift from the first floor to try to enter the room by surprise.
But they were outpaced by security guards who blocked them at the room entrances. They are stuck, surrounded by photographers and cameramen.
11.26am – Baggio not budging
Baggio Leung refuses to leave the chamber. Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen announces the council meeting will continue in a conference room in 30 minutes.
11.25am – Yau Wai-ching speaks
Yau Wai-ching said after being escorted out that she entered the chamber to carry out her responsibility as a lawmaker.
“I have read the whole oath and I hope I can keep staying in the chamber and attend the meeting,” she says.
Yau said Legco president Andrew Leung had contravened the rules in blocking her from taking her oath.
Yau also expressed concerns this morning over Beijing’s possible hand in the matter.
“My concern is about the destruction of the ‘one country two systems’ policy,” she says.
“Whoever asks for interpretation of the law is the one selling Hongkongers out.”
11.24am – Support circle
Baggio Leung is helped by pan-democratic and localist allies, including Ted Hui Chi-fung, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who surround the Youngspiration member as security guards try to take him away.
Watch: Legco live as it’s happening
11.16am – ‘This cannot be done!’
Lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick joins the Legco fray, shouting: “This cannot be done! He [Baggio Leung] was voted in and chosen by thousands of Hongkongers!”
11.12am – Physical obstruction
Lawmakers and security guards are in a deadlock as a group tries to physically carry Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang out of the chamber.
Pan-democratic lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung lies on the floor to block the procession out.
11.07am – The duo enter and rush the floor
As the UGL motion was passed, Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching enter the chamber accompanied by several pan-democratic lawmakers trailing them, including Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Nathan Law Kwun-chung.
Once inside, the two rush the table in front of Legco president Andrew Leung. They take out a small piece of paper, pick up a small microphone and start to read the Legislative Council Oath.
This request prompts several accompanying lawmakers, including Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, to try to stop the security guards from taking them away.
Andrew Leung orders the meeting to be suspended. Yau is taken away. Baggio Leung remains.
11.05am – Meanwhile, a motion passes
Accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung’s motion to launch a special inquiry into Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying’s UGL controversy is passed after 28 lawmakers including the lawmakers stand in support of his motion.
The probe will look at the chief executive’s receipt in 2014 of HK$50 million from Australian firm UGL.
11.01am – Lau Siu-lai finally sworn in
Legco meeting starts, and Lau has taken her oath.
10.49am – Regina Ip talks and balks
New People’s Party chairwoman and lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee struggles to give an answer when asked whether she supports or opposes an interpretation by Beijing.
“The good side of it is it can speed up the process,” she says. “It may be two years for the local judicial process to resolve the case.
She says the central government is “furious” about the Youngspiration duo.
“The down side is an interpretation will attack Hong Kong’s rule of law and the authority of the Hong Kong government.”
So does she support the move or not? “I don’t know,” she says.
10.45am – Protesters outside Legco
Around 20 demonstrators from the League of Social Democrats protested outside Legco, chanting: “legislators’ right to be elected should not be deprived by the Chinese communist party”. They urged Legco chairman Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen to withdraw his decision to bar the Youngspiration duo from taking their oath again, saying the decision showed he had given up his non-partisan position in depriving lawmakers of their right to discuss legislative affairs.
Lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung is among the protesters and says the Legco president has capitulated to Beijing and suppressed democratically elected lawmakers.
“If [Leung] insists on serving the strong power, ignoring people’s opinions and trampling the Legislative Council, the non-establishment lawmakers will have no other choice but to escalate our fight till the end,” he said.
Watch: Jeffie Lam reports live outside Legco as lawmakers return for fourth meeting
10.44am – Former missing bookseller chimes in
Former missing bookseller Lam Wing-Kee announces he will join a demonstration 7pm tonight from the chief executive’s office to the central government’s liaison office in the city.
In a statement sent by the Democratic Party, Lam said Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law to settle the oath case would “destroy the judicial independence of Hong Kong”.
10.40am – One localist’s plan
Lau Siu-Lai, who is arranged to retake the oath today, says she will act “according to her conscience” before entering the chamber.
The localist was asked to redo he oath after pausing too long between every word during her first oath taking.
10.35am – Democratic Party blasts possible Beijing review
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said his party strongly opposed Beijing’s possible interpretation of the Basic Law, arguing Hong Kong had jurisdiction to handle the dispute.
He said the possible move by the NPCSC might hurt global confidence in the “one country, two systems” principle.
The Democrats have filed an urgent oral question and an adjournment motion pending approval by Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen. They also asked for an urgent meeting with Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung to discuss the oath matter.
10.30am – ‘Leave it to the court’
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok, representing the legal sector, said it would be a significant blow to Hong Kong’s rule of law should the National People’s CongressStanding Committee decide to interpret the Basic Law at this stage as a judicial review looms.
“I want to tell NPCSC and the Basic Law Committee directly that I hope they would respect the ongoing judicial process in Hong Kong and that the court would definitely handle the case in a fair and just manner,” he said. “I don’t see any need for the [NPCSC] to interpret the law at this stage.”
He also alleged conflicts of interests involving Johnny Mok Shu-luen SC, a Basic Law Committee member who is representing the government in the Legco legal challenge.
Mok should either promise not to engage in the committee’s discussion on interpreting the law or not represent the government in the case, he said.
The newly-elected Legislative Council, which had its weekly council meeting adjourned for two consecutive weeks since it started on October 12, will convene again at 11am this morning.
The meeting comes just a day ahead of a court hearing for a judicial review filed by the government challenging the Legco president’s decision to allow two localist lawmakers to retake their oaths after their first failed attempt caused a huge political stir.
It also comes after the national legislative body confirmed plans to intervene in the row by issuing an interpretation of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution on Thursday – as suggested by Beijing and local sources.
The oaths by Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, both of the localist group Youngspiration, were invalidated by the president after they pledged allegiance to “Hong Kong nation” and called China “Shina” –a derogatory term used by Japan during the second world war.
Watch: Legco oath-taking crisis last Wednesday
Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen originally decided to offer the pair a second chance, but he later made a dramatic U-turn and banned the duo from entering the chamber after his pro-Beijing allies protested.
The meeting was eventually cut short last week after the localist pair defied Leung’s decision to storm the chamber with the help of eight pan-democrats.
Lawmakers across the political spectrum are today expected to clearly express their views on Beijing’s reported plan to interpret the Basic Law – a plan already strongly condemned by pan-democrats and legal scholars as a huge blow to the city’s rule of law and a deprival of Hong Kong court’s jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, it remains uncertain whether another newly-elected localist, Lau Siu-lai of the Democracy Groundwork, will be able to retake her oath smoothly in today’s session. Leung granted her a second chance after she spent eight minutes delivering her first oath by pausing six seconds between even Chinese word.
It was understood that the democratic caucus planned to facilitate Lau’s oath-taking and that the Youngspiration pair would not storm the meeting until Lau had been sworn in.
The Legco Secretariat introduced new measures yesterday dividing the area outside the chamber between the press zone and a passageway for councillors to use. It reminded reporters they were prohibited from entering the chamber or blocking lawmakers from entering.
Edward Yiu Chung-yim, Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching each inserted words of defiance, with two Youngspiration legislators referring to ‘the people’s re-f****** of Chee-na’
South China Morning Post
1.46pm – More shots at the presumed future Legco president
Before the Legco meeting resumed, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick remained on the stage, demanding Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen produce a “certificate of renunciation” of his British nationality, instead of just two cover letters from the UK Home Office informing Leung that the certificate had been registered.
“I won’t leave here until Leung shows it,” Chu said. “Because this is the last chance we can ask him to come clean.”
Chu was flanked by “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai, Claudia Mo Man-ching, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung.
For 30 minutes, Chu spoke without interruption, and Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen remained silent in his seat, then left the chamber as Chu finished.
The Legco secretariat has been soliciting legal advice as to the validity of the oaths of the three lawmakers Edward Yiu Chung-yim, Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching.
12.40pm – ‘It’s my Ap Lei Chau accent’
The two Youngspiration legislators defended their pronunciation of China as “Chee-na”.
“It’s my Ap Lei Chau accent,” Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chun-hang said.
The localist also stressed he had done nothing wrong by carrying a banner reading “Hong Kong is not China” while reading his oath.
“What I wear is none of [Legco secretary general Kenneth Chen’s] business,” he said.
12.33pm – The pro-Beijing camp’s take
As the oath-taking ceremony concluded, pro-Beijing legislators condemned several localist legislators for departing from the official language of the swearing-in process.
Lawmaker and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong’s chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king said the party would seek legal advice on whether any follow-up action could be pursued against those who altered their oath.
Business and Professionals Alliance legislator Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said Legco secretary general Kenneth Chen Wei-on had been tolerant.
Referring to the two Youngspiration legislators who pronounced China as ‘Chee-na’, Leung said: “I hope when they take their oath again, they will not pronounce China in a way that insults Chinese. We cannot accept this.”
12.30pm – Nathan Law raises questions
Nathan Law Kwun-chung made a short speech preceding his oath. “The word ‘affirmation’ originates from Latin, meaning ‘making it stronger’,” the former Occupy movement student leader said in his preamble. “But the sacred ritual of oath-taking today has been reduced to a tool by the regime to suppress people.”
“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind,” he said.
As he proceeded with his oath and came to the word “republic”, he changed the intonation of his voice, as if asking a question. “I uphold… the People’s Republic of China? I swear allegiance to… the People’s Republic of China?”
The youngest lawmaker of the newly convened body then asked Legco secretary general Kenneth Chen Wei-on why he was qualified to reject three localists’ oaths, referring to Edward Yiu Chung-yim, Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching.
“Which Legco rule says you have the power to stop them joining the presidential election?” Law asked. Lawmakers whose oaths are rejected are ineligible to vote for Legco president.
Chen asked him to return to his seat, and Law’s allies Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Lau Siu-lai called out to support Law. They raised again the nationality issue of Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who is poised to be the president.
Chen called for a break.
12.25pm – Another call for universal suffrage
Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu said at his swearing in: “Hong Kong is the home ground of Hongkongers. Let’s not forget how we began. I want genuine universal suffrage! Go for it Hongkongers!”
12.24pm – A localist explains his motives
Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai delivered a speech at the beginning of his oath explaining why he would take his oath properly.
“In the past few years, our protest for the future of Hong Kong has led us to the streets for 79 days,” he said, referring to the Occupy movement of 2014. “Some youngsters even gave up their future on the first day of the Lunar New Year for Hong Kong,” he said, referring to the Mong Kong riotearlier this year.
“I don’t think the way I take the oath today would amount to any effective resistance,” he said. “I believe everyone will understand.”
The localist legislator then read the oath out in full, and, at the end stated: “Rewrite the constitution by the people… Long live Hong Kong.”
12.12pm – Youngspiration lawmakers’ oaths rejected
Legco secretary general Kenneth Chen Wei-on held that the oath by two Youngspiration lawmakers were invalid as they wore or presented attire bearing the words: “Hong Kong is not China”.
Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching began their oath by swearing allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” and staing they would “preserve, protect and defend” their fellow Hongkongers.
When they read out the official portion of the oath, they pronounced China as ‘Chee-na’, the derogatory pronunciation used during Japanese occupation of the city.
When Chen interrupted Leung to call his attention to his improper oath, Leung waved his hand and said he had not finished.
After Leung and Yau finished, Chen said he would be unable to attest to their oaths, citing the slogan “Hong Kong is not China”.
“Your display gives me reason to doubt whether you understand your duties as lawmakers,” Chen said.
Yau Wai-ching’s exchange with Legco secretary general Kenneth Chen Wei-on
Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching was heard mispronouncing the phrase “People’s Republic of China” three times during her oath.
Yau Wai-ching: “I, Yau Wai-ching, do solemnly swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Hong Kong nation, and will to the best of my ability preserve protect and defend the fellows of Hong Kong.”
Chen: “Councillor Yau Wai-ching, you changed the wording of the oath. I cannot oversee the oath-taking for you, please take the oath again according to the wordings stated in the law.”
Yau: “I understand. You don’t need to repeat”, she said as she draped a banner bearing the phrase “Hong Kong is not China” on the table before her.
Yau: “I (more loudly than before), Yau Wai-ching, solemnly, sincerely and truly declare that and affirm that being a member of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong special administrative region of the people’s re-f****** of Chee-na, I will uphold the basic law of the Hong Kong special administrative region of the people’s re- f****** of Chee-na, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong special administrative region of the people’s re- f****** of Chee-na, and serve the Hong Kong special administrative region conscientiously, dutifully and in full accordance with the law honestly and with integrity.”
Chen: “Councillor Yau, your display gives me reason to doubt whether you understand your duties. I don’t have the power to oversee your oath-taking.”
11.59am – How slow can you go?
New lawmaker localist Lau Siu-lai added a 40-second opening remark before taking her oath with extreme slowness, promising that she would carry on with “the spirit of the umbrella movement [of 2014], which is to determine our own fate”.
“I will walk with Hongkongers, link up the inside and the outside of the legislature, and resist the autocratic regime,” she said. “We must live in truth and integrity, and break the coldness and timidity of our society. We must also seek hope in the dark, and open the path of democratic self-determination. We must topple the high wall, and determine for ourselves and strengthen ourselves.”
Lau spent eight minutes delivering her oath, pausing five to seven seconds between every word.
As she dragged on, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu called out, describing her approach as “stupid”.
When Lau finally finished and went on to vow to protect retirement, the secretary general cut her off and called on the next councillor for oath-taking.
11.55am – First oath rejected
Non-affiliated lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim, representing the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector, is the first to have his oath rejected by Legco’s secretary general Kenneth Chen Wai-on.
After stating “being a member of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China”, Yiu added: “I will uphold procedural justice in Hong Kong, fight for genuine universal suffrage, and serve the city’s sustainable development” before he moved on to swear to uphold the Basic Law.
After Chen asked him to swear in again without inserting his own phrases, Yiu took his oath again, but again added his phrases at the end of the official language.
Chen then asked Yiu to return to his seat, meaning he could not take part in the Legco presidential election later in the afternoon. According to Legco rules, Yiu must takes his oath again next week.
11.55am – Echoes of Occupy
Social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun struck a tambourine he was carrying several times at the end of his oath. He then stated the spirit of the umbrella movement had continued.
“We are back,” Shiu said, holding up his fist. Some in the pan-democratic camp tap on their desks to show solidarity with his statement.
11.51am – Step down, CY Leung!
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, a former ICAC investigator, said after taking his oath: “Crack down on corruption! Wolf Leung, step down!” The reference to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying led the city’s leader to issue a legal letter againstApple Daily, saying such labels violated his constitutional right to seek re-election.
11.47am – Eddie Chu against Andrew Leung
Independent lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who has been querying Legco presidential hopeful Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s British nationality issue, declares this after taking his oath: “Democratic self-determination! Tyranny must perish one day! Objection to Leung Kwan-yuen’s presidency!”
11.37am – Helena Wong calls for water testing
Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan, who exposed a lead-in-water scandal at local public housing estates last year, calls out after finishing her oath:
“Scrap the 8.31 [a reference to Beijing’s white paper issued on August 31, 2014, determining the framework in which the city’s chief executive was to be elected]! Down with CY Leung! Water Supplies Department must test water immediately! No delay!”
11.21am – Raymond Chan’s declaration
Before taking his oath, People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen tore apart the government’s statement on oath-taking issued yesterday. He declared the government had no right to intervene in Legco’s affairs.
He then read his oath, and, before he walked away, he shouted: “I am a Hongkonger and I want genuine universal suffrage. Filibuster against evil laws; confrontation for public good. Down with Leung Chun-ying!”
11.17am – Long Hair drama
The first oath-taking fireworks: “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, holding a yellow umbrella – a symbol of the pro-democracy Occupy movement of 2014 – shouts, “Civil disobedience! People determine their own future! We need no approval from Chinese Communist Party!”
He reads out the oath word for word, only splitting the phrases up so that he swore allegiance to “Hong Kong… SAR” and to “the People….’s Republic of China”.
At the end of the oath he chants: “Scrap NPC 8.31! I want double universal suffrage,” referring to the stringent reform framework decreed by the National People’s Congress last year. He then rips up a prop Basic Law.
11.16am – Regina Ip takes her oath
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee was the 14th lawmaker to take an oath. She was tipped to run in the chief executive election next year, but in a recent opinion poll, she was ranked the second-most unpopular candidate – slightly more popular than the incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
11.10am – Doubts about favourite for Legco presidency
Newly elected lawmaker and leading vote-getter Eddie Chu Hoi-dick cast doubt over Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s suitability as president, citing a lack of clarity as to whether he still had the right to reside in the UK
In a letter dated October 11, the Home Office informed Leung that “the renunciation of British nationality affects a person’s right to live in the UK”.
“’Affects’ is an unclear word,” Chu said, appearing with fellow localist lawmakers Lau Siu-lai and Nathan Law Kwun-chung. “We will raise questions on this point and we hope our questioning will not be stopped.”
11.05am – Veteran lawmakers sworn in
The five most senior lawmakers took their oaths without incident: James To Kun-sun, Leung Yiu-chung, Abraham Razack, Tommy Cheung Yu-Yan and Joseph Lee Kok-long.
As Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen comes forward, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, holding a yellow umbrella at his seat, shouts “foreign national!”.
10.50am – A nationality renounced
Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, the Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker vying to be Legco president, showed fellow lawmakers documents stating he had applied to renounce his British nationality.
New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a former security minister, said the documents were satisfactory, adding the Home Office’s certificate of his renunciation was “on the way”.
“I think Mr Leung has completed renunciation formalities,” she said. “His application for renunciation has been accepted … and registered.”
Arriving in chambers, Leung did not comment on his nationality issue, saying only that: “I hope to have [the lawmakers’] support.”
10.15am – This member’s got wheels
Pilot-turned-lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho rode in on his motor bike. The Civic Party’s new star said he rode in on two motorised wheels “not just to be cool, but also to show my determination to deal with the city’s complex transport issues with my expertise”. He is a charter member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.
To make time for his lawmaking duties, Tam has left his pilot role and become a member of the crew management team at his company.
As the city’s 70 newly elected lawmakers swear in one by one at the sixth session of the Legislative Council from 11am today, government officials will be watching anxiously like never before.
The oath-taking ceremony is touching a nerve this year because six localists calling for Hong Kong’s self-determination were elected to the city’s legislature. Two have talked of plans to work their pro-independence calls into the wording of the official oath, which requires them to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to Hong Kong as a special administrative region of China.
To avoid turning the occasion into a platform for separatist calls, the government warned yesterday that those who refused to take their oath properly could lose their seats.
In the past, some lawmakers, like “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, managed to pass muster by reading out the oath word for word while adding their own slogans before and after the oath.
After the oath-taking ceremony, the Legislative Council is to elect a new president. The candidates are Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, a functional-constituency member who has returned to Legco four times uncontested, and the Democratic Party’s “super-seat” councillor James To Kun-sun.
Although Leung has been blasted by many including his allies for a purportedly high-handed style, he is poised to win the post due to support from the pro-establishment camp, whose members predominate the chamber.