Hong Kong’s top official said he could not rule out asking Beijing to interpret the city’s mini-constitution over the handling of the controversial oath-taking by two localists on October 12.
The comments from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying stand in contrast to earlier remarks made by Hong Kong’s justice minister and several Beijing-loyalist heavyweights. They also come just two days before the city’s High Court is set to handle a judicial review on the issue.
Leung said: “We hope to do our utmost to resolve it within Hong Kong, but we cannot rule out this possibility.”
According to the Basic Law, the National People’s Congress has the power to interpret the mini-constitution. But the use of such power is a highly sensitive and controversial issue, as improper use of interpretative power would hinder Hong Kong’s judicial independence and rule of law, according to the city’s legal sector .
Veteran Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, convenor of a weekly meeting of pan-democratic and localist lawmakers, said Leung’s comment was “a de facto interference” in the court’s proceedings.
“It was inappropriate for the government’s head to be talking about Beijing’s interpretation when the case has yet to be heard in the Court of First Instance,” To said.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung had earlier said that there was no need for interpretation at this stage. Elsie Leung Oi-sie, vice-chairwoman of the National People’s Congress’ Basic Law Committee, had also said that there was no need for Beijing to step in to “stop what lawmakers or residents have been saying or doing”.
New People’s Party leader Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who has expressed interest in the city’s leadership race next March, made similar comments.
On Monday, Leung cancelled his plans to fly to Beijing to meet mainland officials at an annual conference on economic cooperation on Wednesday and Thursday.
Speaking before his weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday morning, Leung confirmed that this was because he needed to find time to handle the court case over Younspiration duo Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching’s use of insulting language in their Legislative Council oaths.
“Yau and Leung’s oath-taking and what they did and said afterwards had extremely bad consequences. Apart from the court case two days from now, it is very likely that their oath-taking and what they did and said afterwards will trigger other things. I need to handle it in the next two or three days,” Leung revealed.
Asked to explain what he meant by “other things”, and whether the duo could face criminal investigation, Leung said: “I will inform you as soon as possible ... when I have more information.”
Article 104 of the Basic Law states that when assuming office, principal officials, judges and lawmakers must “swear to uphold” the Basic Law, and “swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China”.
Touching on another political hot topic, next year’s chief executive poll, Leung said his cancelled Beijing trip had “nothing to do with” whether he was seeking re-election.