Article 104 of the Basic Law states, among other things, that all members of the Legislative Council must, in accordance with law, swear to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and swear allegiance to the HKSAR.
It goes without saying that all LegCo members who breach the substance of the oath should bear the legal consequences as well as be liable for disqualification from their seats.
However, there is so far a legal vacuum as to what constitutes a breach of the oath. Furthermore, the recent passing of the National Security Law for Hong Kong also has a bearing on the expected behavior of the LegCo members. Thus, it is timely that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, on Wednesday, ruled that legislators who promote or support independence, refuse to accept China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, appeal to foreign forces to interfere with the region’s affairs or endanger national security shall lose their eligibility at the Legislative Council.
The NPCSC decision eliminates all existing ambiguity regarding the legislators’ compliance in this respect and it is in line with international standards governing their respective parliamentarians. The wiggle room for complaint is henceforth removed concerning the criteria for members’ immediate disqualification.
Subsequent to the NPCSC resolution, the SAR government announced that the four opposition legislators, the Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Ka-ki and Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, and Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong of the Professionals Guild have been stripped of their seats in LegCo with immediate effect. It dispenses with the need for a local judicial process.
The NPCSC decision eliminates all existing ambiguity regarding the legislators’ compliance in this respect and it is in line with international standards governing their respective parliamentarians. The wiggle room for complaint is henceforth removed concerning the criteria for members’ immediate disqualification
These four legislators were earlier disqualified from running in the Legislative Council elections, before the polls were postponed until September next year. Their disqualification was based on sound legal basis, and the reasons given by the election officer are identical to the current legal interpretation by the NPCSC.
Common sense would conclude that when the NPCSC passed a resolution to postpone the election in September and allowed the current incumbent members to continue their service for another year, these four persons should be the exception as it had already been ruled in accordance with the local election law that they were no longer qualified to be LegCo members. In hindsight, I believe the SAR government wanted to demonstrate their leniency and gave them another chance to turn over a new leaf to serve the public. Unfortunately, they persisted in their disruptive old ways in LegCo in the last two months, making the normal functioning of LegCo impossible. In fact, they even stepped up with their filibustering and demanded pointless head counts more than 80 times.
Evidently, their continued presence in LegCo would lead to its paralysis, leaving the NPCSC, at the request of the chief executive, no alternative but to state in its resolution that their interpretation will apply retrospectively to the LegCo election originally due to take place on Sept 6, when the candidates, i.e. , Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, and Kenneth Leung, were ruled by the SAR government as disqualified for the election.
One query is why the disqualification does not go through the local judicial system. One should note according to the Chinese Constitution, the NPC is the highest legal authority in China and its Standing Committee has the right to make any legal and judicial decision that is binding and final. In a way, if we look back to the British colonial days, the highest appeal court for the colony then was the Privy Council of the House of Lords, not the Supreme Court. The NPCSC certainly has the legal status comparable with the Privy Council if not higher.
At the end of the day, the opposition has only itself to blame. For many years after reunification, the central government has adopted a hands-off policy on Hong Kong affairs, hoping that the people of Hong Kong can achieve effective self-rule in their own way in pursuit of prosperity and stability. But stability is exactly what the opposition wants to destroy. When the SAR government wanted to introduce a National Security Law to honor its obligation under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the opposition used scaremongering tactics to get the people of Hong Kong to conduct mass protests on the streets, which were later hijacked by radical elements and turned into violent social unrest. Even then, the central government did not interfere, hoping that it could be resolved peacefully.
To answer the public call for greater democracy, the central government had agreed to introduce the one-person, one-vote election system, based on the election committee nomination in accordance with the Basic Law, but the opposition camp turned it down and insisted on their citizens’ own nomination, which is not specified in the Basic Law. Hoping to force the government to bend to their will, they resorted to the massively disruptive “Occupy Central” protest, bringing Hong Kong to a standstill for months. In spite of that, the central government did not interfere. Then last year, they took advantage of the proposed extradition law and conspired with foreign forces to create citywide chaos and fear among the citizenry as many were harmed for simply not agreeing with the violent activists’ political views. Along with the wanton destruction of public infrastructure and private businesses, they were attempting to destabilize society and bring down the HKSAR government. They were conveniently exploited by certain hostile Western powers to cause trouble to China. It is only when the nation’s security was at risk that the central government finally took the decisive step of introducing the National Security Law and returning Hong Kong to normalcy and stability.
It is now clear that the central government no longer harbors any illusion of expecting the opposition to work with the government for the betterment of Hong Kong, much less expecting it to have any genuine sense of patriotism for the motherland. The disqualification of the four signals zero tolerance of any blatant anarchic and mindlessly disruptive activities damaging to Hong Kong and national interests.
The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space, and a council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS