Beijing appears ready to have the final say in Hong Kong’s explosive oath-taking controversy, escalating the tumultuous constitutional crisis that has gripped the city for nearly a month to even greater heights.
The dispute began when two newly-elected lawmakers representing the pro-independence Youngspiration party went to take their oaths of office at the swearing in ceremony for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on October 12th. Rather than give the standard version of the oath, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung gave their own altered version refusing to declare their allegiance to China, with Yau referring to the country derogatorily as “Refucking of Chee-na,” and doing so while waving a blue flag reading: “Hong Kong is not China.”
At the ceremony, their oaths were rejected. In order to keep them from trying to take their oaths again, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung launched legal proceedings to disqualify the two activists from taking the offices that they had been elected to for violating Article 104 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which stipulates that lawmakers must swear their allegiance to “the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.”
The controversy has cast the city’s young pro-democracy activists against Beijing loyalists with brawls breaking out in the legislature halls and protest marches being carried out in the street. With no decision by the Hong Kong court coming, many began to worry that Beijing would step in to ultimately decide the contentious issue itself.
Those speculations have been proved correct with an announcement from Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu confirming earlier this morning that the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, is taking the initiative to intervene in the conflict and rule on Article 104, according to SCMP.
If the NPC does in fact rule on the oath-taking issue, the outcome isn’t likely to be favorable for the two Youngspiration members. “Removing Leung and Yau from the LegCo reflects the will of the entire nation. We are sure the country will make it happen,” read an editorial published in party tabloid the Global Times yesterday.
Tam claimed that no Hong Kong official had requested Beijing to step in and that the decision had been made by NPC Chairman Zhang Dejiang because the issues at stake “involved national unity and territorial integrity.”
Both Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung have denounced Beijing’s decision to intervene in Hong Kong law.
“Hong Kong’s independent judiciary has died – China replaced the rule of law with the rule of man, constantly threatening Hong Kong people, the actions of a so-called great country are equal to those of thugs,” HFKP cites Yau as saying.
“I am a lawmaker elected by the people,” she continued. “I said from the start I would pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong people. Those in power are now twisting the Basic Law to suppress [us]. In effect it is anti-democratic and silencing our voices.”
“CY Leung and Zhang Dejiang are traitors to Hong Kong,” Baggio Leung added. “We, the Hong Kong nation, must make them pay.”
According to The Guardian, the move is also deeply unpopular with Hong Kong’s legal community. Johannes Chan, a law professor at Hong Kong University, said:
The NPC will likely say that those who advocate for Hong Kong independence are not able to swear allegiance to China. There is no reason this matter cannot be resolved by the court, an NPC interpretation will destroy confidence in the judiciary and no one will trust our legal system in the future if it involves China.
If Hong Kong’s judicial independence is destroyed, then there is no difference between the “two systems,” Hong Kong and China will just be “one country.” The rule of law is all we have left.