HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying said on Monday that he will “fully implement” a ruling by Beijing which effectively bars two elected pro-independence lawmakers from the city’s legislature after they deliberately misread their oaths of office.
An oath that did not conform to Hong Kong’s law “should be determined to be invalid, and cannot be retaken”, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing said in a rare interpretation of the city’s constitution.
Beijing’s intervention pre-empts a decision on the petition Leung had filed at Hong Kong’s High Court seeking to disqualify newly elected rebel lawmakers Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching from taking up their seats. That court decision is still pending.
It comes as fears grow that China is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city with concerns that Hong Kong’s rule of law and court system are now under threat.
Leung told reporters that he and the city government would “implement the interpretation fully”.
“Any words or deeds that deliberately contravene (the interpretation’s) requirements, defy the prescribed oath-taking procedures, or even use the opportunity to insult the country and the Chinese people and advocate cessation, must be stopped in accordance with the law,” Leung said.
Yau and Baggio included expletives and derogatory terms in their oaths of office last month, and draped themselves in “Hong Kong is not China” flags. They sought a second chance to take their oaths, but both the Hong Kong government and Beijing have stepped in to prevent that.
Beijing sees any talk of independence as treasonous and the official Xinhua news agency quoted a spokesman for the government’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office welcoming the ruling. “The interpretation demonstrates the central government’s firm determination and will in opposing ‘Hong Kong independence,’” the spokesperson said, adding that it “complies with the common aspiration of the entire Chinese people, including the compatriots in Hong Kong”.
There are deep concerns that China’s promise to allow Hong Kong to function under “one country, two systems” for 50 years since the territory returned to China in 1907 and liberties, enshrined in the city’s constitution known as the Basic Law, are at risk, and mass protests two years ago demanded greater democracy.
As frustrations build, an independence movement demanding a split from Beijing has emerged.
Hong Kong police used pepper spray Sunday to drive back hundreds of protesters angry at China’s decision to intervene in the row.
Monday’s announcement was the fifth time since the handover that China has interpreted the Basic Law.
Li Fei, the chairman of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, told reporters: “These Hong Kong independence figures are going against the country and splitting the country. How can they uphold Hong Kong’s Basic Law?”