Beijing has announced its ruling on Hong Kong’s explosive oath-taking controversy. As you might expect, it wasn’t favorable to the independence advocates.
On October 12th, 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 (LegCo), the city’s top legislative body. 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 wrapped in a blue flag reading: “Hong Kong is NOT China.”
At the ceremony, their oaths were both rejected. In order to keep them from trying to swear in again, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung launched legal proceedings to disqualify the two “localist” 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.”
With no immediate decision from the Hong Kong court, it was announced last Friday that the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, would take the initiative to intervene in the conflict and give its interpretation of Article 104, because the issues at stake “involved national unity and territorial integrity.”
The NPC Standing Committee announced its unanimous interpretation at a press conference in Beijing earlier today, helping to “clarify” the oath-taking process and what exactly it means to “swear in accordance with the law.”
The ruling affirmed that the oath is a requirement for serving office in Hong Kong and when taking the oath: “The person taking the oath should take it sincerely and solemnly and must accurately, completely and solemnly read out phrases such as ‘uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China’ and ‘bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China’ as stated in the statutory oath.”
A translation of the decision from South China Morning Post continues:
c) If the oath-taker refuses to take the oath, he or she shall be disqualified from assuming public office. One is deemed to have refused to take the oath – and subsequently have his or her oath invalidated – if he or she deliberately reads out an oath different from the statutory oath or does it in an insincere or frivolous manner.
d) The oath administrator has the duty to confirm the oath taking is carried out legally and that the oath complies with this interpretation and Hong Kong law.
Any oath that does not satisfy the above interpretation should be confirmed as an “invalid” oath. Retaking the oath is forbidden.
So, it looks like Hong Kong will be looking for two new legislators.
The ruling underlines Beijing’s “firm determination and will against Hong Kong independence,” a Hong Kong and Mainland Affairs Office spokesperson said, adding that the interpretation has the same legal status as the Basic Law itself and must be implemented thoroughly.
“[Beijing] will absolutely neither permit anyone advocating secession in Hong Kong nor allow any pro-independence activists to enter a government institution,” the spokesperson said.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung was quick to voice his support for Beijing’s interpretation of Hong Kong law.
I, as the chief executive, have the duty to implement the Basic Law in accordance with Article 48. I and the SAR government will implement the ruling fully.
The constitutional fact is that Hong Kong has been part of China. It is and it will be. The Basic Law is a national law and a Hong Kong law. Any proposition about Hong Kong’s future must be in accordance with the Basic Law.
Last week, both Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung 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,” Yau said.
The move was also deeply unpopular with Hong Kong’s legal community, who worried that it would damage Hong Kong’s image abroad. Meanwhile, thousands of pro-democracy and pro-independence activists took to the street over the weekend with violent clashes occurring outside of China’s Liaison Office that continued until the early hours of Monday morning as protesters were met with riot shields and pepper spray.
Bloomberg reports that the NPC Standing Committee decision is just its second unilateral interpretation of Hong Kong law since the former British colony was handed back over to China. In 2014, the Standing Committee issued a different kind of edict, decreeing that the process by which Hong Kong’s top leader was chosen would be controlled by Beijing. This decision sparked the iconic Occupy protests of 2014, helping to give birth to a new generation of young advocates, some of whom would go on to be elected to the city’s top legislative body and advocate for independence from Chinese rule.
We’ll have to wait and see what sort of consequences this latest decision brings.
[Images via hk01.com]