Hong Kong’s government has decided to take a third newly elected localist lawmaker to court after succeeding in having two others disqualified for failing to take their oaths of office properly.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice said it would initiate legal proceedings against Lau Siu-lai.
Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who gave Lau the chance to retake her oath after the first attempt was deemed inappropriate last month, was also named in the new case.
Lau, a university lecturer, raised eyebrows when she first took her oath on October 12 by deliberately pausing for six seconds between every word. She wrote later on Facebook that she had meant to render the oath meaningless.
But the Justice Department stopped short of specifying what grounds it would use in the legal action. “It is not appropriate for us to provide further comments at this stage in view of possible proceedings,” the department said.
A letter from the department to the judiciary said it planned to lodge the case against Lau by the end of this week or early next week, following the appeal of the two localist lawmakers.
In a press conference at the Legco today, Lau expressed her anger and frustration after the government launched a legal bid against her. She was backed by pan-democrats and other localist lawmakers, including Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Demosisto’s Nathan Law Kwun-chung.
“The legal bid is a part of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s election campaign, which could increase his chances of being re-elected. This move only serves his political interests – purging the lawmakers who disagree him,” said Lau.
She said she was elected because her voters supported her views and missions. “As one of the Umbrella candidates, I am here to fulfil my duties, such as fighting for the poor, the elderly and hawkers. Supporters voted me to supervise the government. But now the government’s move seems to show that they want to get rid of us. I pledge all Hongkongers to support us and fight against all the odds.”
Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching lost their Legco seats after Leung and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung launched an unprecedented legal bid last month to have the two disqualified, and the High Court declared their oaths were invalid.
The Court of Appeal rejected the duo’s appeal today, upholding a lower court’s ruling to disqualify two localist lawmakers. The judges expect the localists will seek to bring the case to the Court of Final Appeal.
Senior Counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wah said if the appeals court accepted the lower court’s ruling in Yau and Leung’s case on Wednesday, the principles set out within – that one should not wilfully decline or neglect to take an oath – could become a precedent in determining Lau’s case.
Andrew Leung said he allowed Lau to take a second oath based on the best legal advice available at the time, and he would now leave it to the court to decide.
The two Youngspiration lawmakers were accused of making a mockery of their swearing-in ceremony by insulting China and displaying “Hong Kong is not China” banners.
It prompted the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to issue an interpretation of the city’s mini-constitution even before the High Court ruling, making it punishable by disqualification if oaths were not taken solemnly and sincerely.