The Legislative Council president reversed an earlier decision on Tuesday and deferred the swearing-in of two localists who insulted China in their initial oaths, prompting the pair to threaten to force their way into the chamber on Wednesday.
Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said for now he had to take the “painful but necessary” step to ban the Youngspiration duo from retaking their vows, even as the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s lawyers toughened their legal action by asking the court to declare their seats “vacant”.
The move made late on Monday was an amendment to their original writ seeking a judicial review to challenge the right of the pair to take their oaths a second time.
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Andrew Leung said administration of the oaths for Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching would be deferred until the Court of First Instance had ruled on the judicial review. The hearing is set for November 3.
The Legco president would not say whether he would continue to wait if the court ruling was appealed. But he admitted he viewed with “grave concern” the threat of a boycott “at all costs” by the pro-government camp.
“The most probable outcome is that Legco will come to a complete halt” if he let the duo retake their oaths, he said.
His decision came hours after the chief executive warned of “far-reaching repercussions” on how Beijing viewed Hong Kong and its relations with the mainland if the matter was not “rectified”.
Leung said he also had to consider his duty outlined in Article 72(2) of the Basic Law on the Legco president having the power to decide the council’s agenda.
“Having considered the Basic Law, the rules of procedure and the impact on Legco operations and on the individual lawmakers, I came to the conclusion that I have justifiable grounds to defer the administration of oaths until the court has a ruling on the judicial review,” he said.
The Legco president’s lawyer argued in court last week that banning the Youngspiration pair from retaking the oath would “seriously deprive them of constitutional rights”.
Leung denied succumbing to political pressure and denied contacting Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, saying he only “made different decisions at different times”.
During their first oath-taking, the duo pledged loyalty to “the Hong Kong nation” and pronounced China as “Chee-na”, similar to the derogatory Shina used by Japan during wartime.
The chief executive then mounted a court challenge to ban the duo from retaking their vows.
On Tuesday, the Youngspiration pair slammed the president for what they called a “ridiculous” reversal of his earlier decision. They vowed to enter the chamber today through “legal means”.
“I will be here at the chamber at 11am sharp tomorrow,” Baggio Leung said. “I will ask the president to let me take the oath right there on the spot. He has no power to stop me.”
Asked whether they would take legal action against the president, the localist said: “I have had considerable reservations about the government’s legal action against us [and the legislature]. I don’t want to commit the same mistake.”
The Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok said the pan-democratic camp no longer had confidence that Leung, who had made a “completely shameless decision”, could perform his duties impartially.
He hinted that the camp would stage a united action on Wednesday and would consider tabling a vote of no confidence against Leung.
Calling her camp “defenders of the constitution, pro-government lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king welcomed the president’s U-turn, saying it would prevent Legco from becoming a place to spread the idea of Hong Kong independence.
University of Hong Kong law professor Johannes Chan Man-mun said the Legco president had the discretion to postpone the taking of oaths for a reasonable time, but it should not be for too long as it was a matter of constitutional importance.
Separately, Xu Ze, former deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, arrived in Hong Kong to give the city’s deputies to the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference a lecture on the history of “one country, two systems”.
Xu said “separation of powers” did not apply to Hong Kong, according to ex-lawmaker Ip Kwok-him.
Also on Tuesday, student Ivan Mok Ka-kit lodged a fresh legal bid to bar another localist Lau Siu-lai from taking her oath. He argued Lau had deliberately read her oath slowly in a manner calculated to make it incomprehensible.