HK government seeks to bar four more MPs

05-Dec-2016 Intellasia | The guardian | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s government signalled that it would attempt to disqualify four pro-democracy legislators on Friday, after successfully barring two others from the city’s parliament in an unprecedented attack on popularly elected lawmakers.

The government will file a lawsuit seeking to unseat Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law, Edward Yiu and Leung Kwok-hung by declaring their oaths of office invalid, local media reported.

A Hong Kong court disqualified Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung from taking their seats after the pair launched a dramatic anti-China protest during a swearing-in ceremony in October.

In recent months, the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have become increasingly hostile to calls for self-determination and independence in the former British colony.

Elections in September saw six candidates who support self-determination or outright independence swept into the legislature, including Yau, Leung, Law, Lau and Yiu.

Many in Hong Kong disagreed with Yau and Leung’s protest, which included displaying flags that said “Hong Kong is not China” and using a expletive to refer to China. However, the four others were seen as far more moderate.

“This is a very serious challenge to the entire pro-democracy political community,” said Law, at 23 the youngest person ever elected to the chamber. The move is a “suppression of political power” design to tip the balance of power in favour of pro-Beijing lawmakers, he continued.

If enough lawmakers in the pro-democracy camp are ejected, the group would lose veto power over major legislation, one of the most powerful tools in a parliament stacked with pro-establishment legislators.

After the government filed the first lawsuit to disqualify the two pro-independence lawmakers, Beijing intervened, rewriting Hong Kong’s mini-constitution in a rare use of power. The move signalled the Chinese authorities’ strong opposition to allowing dissenting voices into the legislature.

Leung Kwok-hung, popularly known as “Long Hair” and a member of the legislature for more than a decade, has been jailed several times for political protests from within the chamber. He vowed to fight the charges during an impromptu press conference outside his office, wearing his signature Che Guevara T-shirt.

Lawmakers are required to swear allegiance to the “the Hong Kong special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China”. Lau read the oath in slow motion, taking 10 minutes to read the 77-word declaration. That attempt was invalidated, but she was allowed to retake the oath and eventually sworn in.

In the court ruling banning Yau and Leung, the judge said the pair “manifestly refused … to solemnly, sincerely and truly bind themselves” to Hong Kong’s laws, citing statements the judge said showed they made “a wilful and deliberate attempt … to insult China”.

Law quoted Gandhi and stated his opposition to the current president of the legislature. It is not yet clear exactly what aspects of the oaths the government will challenge.

Any lawmakers who are disqualified would have to be replaced in a by-election, which is supposed to occur within 21 days after all appeals are exhausted.


Category: Hong Kong

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