Chief Secretary Carrie Lam has been under fire since she challenged the qualifications of lawmakers during a Legislative Council session on Wednesday.
The legislature held a special session on Wednesday to discuss Beijing’s controversial ruling on Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, handed down in response to the recent oath controversy. The session was attended by Lam, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam.
Lam said during the meeting: “Just because government officials are answering lawmakers’ questions [today], doesn’t mean we recognise the status of individual lawmakers.” She added that the government “reserves the right” to take action against lawmakers regarding their conduct during last month’s swearing-in session.
Secretary for Development Paul Chan made a similar comment on Tuesday.
Former secretary for the civil service Joseph Wong Wing-ping wrote in the AM 730 newspaper on Friday that government officials are responsible for ensuring social stability and should not be blindly optimistic.
Without naming Lam, Wong said in disapproval: “Some even specifically stated during a Legislative Council session that answering lawmakers’ questions does not mean the government has accepted their oaths.”
“Are government officials and pro-establishment figures really so ignorant that they don’t understand that the proper functioning of society depends on a healthy legislature?” Wong said.
He also criticised those who took advantage of the interpretation by challenging the seats of lawmakers who represent tens of thousands of electors.
“Whether the Youngspiration lawmakers should be disqualified should fall within the remit of Hong Kong’s autonomy. Even if the central government has the power to interpret the law – which it did – Hongkongers should stay alert and try to minimise the damage,” Wong said.
He cited Hong Kong’s last governor Chris Patten, who said that every sector, including the civil service, should defend and assert Hong Kong’s autonomy.
‘Worse than swear words’
Independent localist lawmaker Lau Siu-lai asked the government to apologise to lawmakers for Lam’s and Chan’s remarks.
“They’re insulting lawmakers who were elected by universal suffrage,” Lau said. “The government is also cracking down on pan-democrats and spending taxpayers’ money in seeking judicial review against us.”
Lawmaker Nathan Law of Demosistō said the government officials’ provocation is “worse than swear words.” He said that it is the “biggest joke ever” for the government to question the validity of the oaths taken by democratically elected lawmakers.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen criticised Beijing’s interpretation as disrupting the stability of the legislature.
In response, Lam said: “I find it strange to hear that the stability of legislature is to be affected by the interpretation. Since October 12, the chaos created in the chamber in LegCo meetings has been with us for a month. So far you have not been able to operate normally.”
“I think the people of Hong Kong know very well who should be blamed,” the chief secretary said.