HONG KING, Nov 15 – In what was already a forgone conclusion, a Hong Kong court ruled earlier this afternoon that two pro-independence lawmakers must vacate their seats on the city’s top legislative body after they got a little too cute during their oath-taking obligation last month. On October 12th, the two newly-elected lawmakers representing the localist Youngspiration party went to take their oaths of office at the swearing in ceremony for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo).
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 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, China’s National People’s Congress took the initiative to intervene in the conflict and give its own interpretation of Article 104, reasoning that the issues at stake “involved national unity and territorial integrity.” To no one’s surprise the NPC interpretation affirmed that the oath is a requirement for serving office in Hong Kong, must not be read in an “insincere or frivolous manner,” and retaking it is forbidden.
Afterward, a Hong Kong and Mainland Affairs Office spokesperson said that the ruling underlined Beijing’s “firm determination and will against Hong Kong independence,” adding that the interpretation has the same legal status as the Basic Law itself and must be implemented thoroughly. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung was quick to voice his support for Beijing’s interpretation of Hong Kong law.
However, earlier today, the Hong Kong court said that it had reached its own conclusion independent of the NPC interpretation. According to SCMP, that conclusion also affirmed that oaths must be taken “sincerely and solemnly” and that oath takers are “bound in conscience to perform the act faithfully and truthfully”. Because Leung and Yau failed to do this and did not recognize the principle of “one country, two systems” they would be forced to vacate their seats, the court ruled.
In court, the two activists tried to argue that LegCo president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen should have the power to organize another swearing in ceremony for the pair. However, the court ruled that in Hong Kong, Basic Law is “supreme” taking precedence over the legislative branch. After the decision, the two young activists said that they would appeal the verdict. HKFPreports that Yau stressed that she was democratically elected to the office that she is now barred from holding.
“I must stress that, Leung Chun-hang and I were democratically elected lawmakers by 20,643 and some 30,000 voters respectively in the election in September this year,” she said. “[Since] the court adopted such measures to strip us of our lawmaker qualifications, I think you all have an idea what kind of society this is.”
Meanwhile, Leung added that the court’s decision would affect Hong Kong for decades and make many who advocated for self-determination rethink their public position on the matter. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of opponents of Hong Kong independence took to the street, rivaling demonstrations made in recent weeks by pro-independence and pro-democracy activists protesting against the oath-taking controversy and Beijing’s intervention. Expect more protests to come.