On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s High Court disqualified Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang, the two Youngspiration lawmakers involved in the oath-taking saga, from assuming their positions in the Legislative Council.
The ongoing drama has been in headlines every week since the pair swore during their initial oath-taking ceremony. What the two legislators did was unnecessary and disrespected the seriousness of the situation. The public has every right to be disappointed by their actions and speech.
But was their offence really so great that they had to be removed from office?
The interpretation of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress comes in the context of the Beijing government claiming that the two individuals who advocated Hong Kong independence have violated the Basic Law, despite the fact that the basic right to freedom of expression is protected in this city. Beijing said that stepping in was necessary to bring Hong Kong back in line and to end the current chaos in the legislature.
However, what the Standing Committee did irrevocably contradicts the fundamental rights of individuals – not only does it deprive the oath-taker of their freedom of opinion, it may eventually thwart the free expression of the public.
When Hong Kong was handed back to Beijing in 1997, we were promised a “One Country, Two System” formula that would ensure that we would have autonomy guided by the Basic Law. But the Standing Committee’s ruling effectively bypassed the local courts.
It wasn’t so much that Leung and Yau insulted Beijing, it was their suggestion of an independent Hong Kong that really infuriated and scared the central government.
But the Standing Committee has set a dangerous precedent if they plan to disqualify anyone who doesn’t pledge their loyalty to Beijing.
This is not the first time Beijing has stepped in on Hong Kong politics. But what are our judges and local courts for if Being keeps doing their jobs for them? Although there have been five instances since the 1997 handover when the Standing Committee has intervened, the implications this time are much more serious and damaging.
Hong Kong court rules localist lawmakers Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching disqualified from Legco seat
Firstly, this is the first time Beijing intervened in a Hong Kong court case without being asked by local officials or judges, thereby undermining the city’s high degree of autonomy which was supposedly guaranteed by the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Secondly, releasing of an interpretation when the High Court was still deciding would render any judgement of the court meaningless. This causes a severe blow to the independence of the judiciary system.
Ultimately, this could lead to a lack of public confidence in Hong Kong’s judiciary system in resolving disputes.
I don’t support what Yau and Leung said, but the mainland’s interference was far worse. Beijing’s intervention marks the beginning of the central government invading Hong Kong’s judicial independence and if this continues, the rule of law we proudly uphold will soon cease to exist. We must fight against this to maintain our autonomy and democracy.