Opinion Politics & Protest

The government’s purge of the legislature is appalling – Hong Kong’s courts must stand firm

Here goes, although this may not seem the ideal time to express renewed hope and faith in the resiliency of Hong Kong and the “one country, two systems” mantra that is supposed to protect our special status in China until 2047.

After all, two duly elected legislators just got tossed out of the Legislative Council for insulting the mainland, and the positions of four others are now threatened by fresh legal action taken last week by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung.

Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching

Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching. File photo: Bob Yip/Reuters.

Recall that the chief executive and his justice minister were also the source of an earlier judicial review that resulted in the ouster of the Youngspiration duo, Sixtus Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, after they deliberately botched their oaths during last month’s LegCo swearing-in ceremony. Now the Leung administration—thanks to another noxious “interpretation” of the Basic Law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that has turned oath-taking into a test of patriotism encompassing the oath-taker’s pace, tone and any accompanying props—is licking its chops in hopes of catching out other troublesome pan-democratic lawmakers for their stunts of protest, even though their oaths (unlike those of the Youngspiration pair) were accepted by LegCo president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.

The latest targets, with perhaps more to come, are newly elected lawmakers Lau Siu-lai, Dr Edward Yiu Chung-yim and Nathan Law Kwun-Chung as well as that longstanding government nemesis and protester extraordinaire, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung.

Leung Kwok-hung, Edward Yiu, Yau Wai-ching, Nathan Law, Lau Siu-lai, Baggio Leung

Leung Kwok-hung, Edward Yiu, Yau Wai-ching, Nathan Law, Lau Siu-lai, Baggio Leung. Photo: HKFP.

With six pan-dem seats vacated by court order, pro-government lawmakers would rule the roost and the Leung administration—and, by extension, the powers-that-be in Beijing—could have their way in Hong Kong’s legislature. Moreover, if Leung is successful in this legislative coup, it’s hard to imagine how he wouldn’t be Beijing’s favoured candidate in next March’s small-circle CE election by committee. Thus, in addition to witnessing the purge of its legislature, the city could also quite possibly see the singularly divisive, widely reviled purger reinstated for five more years.

Yes, this is a nightmare scenario for everyone who cares about free speech, democracy and judicial independence in Hong Kong. Indeed, it would mark the end of any meaningful system of checks and balances in Hong Kong politics.

Awful. Horrible. Appalling.

Lee Bo Protest, bookseller disappearance protest

File photo: HKFP.

Which makes it all the more important to keep the faith and to neither give up nor give in to apathy or despair. This is not the time to write off Hong Kong.

History has shown again and again that, in a crisis, the people of this city rise to the challenge. First there was the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that sealed their fate under the future sovereignty of a communist dictatorship; five years later came the gut-wrenching shock of the June 4, Tiananmen Square massacre, which made that historic deal look like the kiss of death.

But then the handover came and the handover went— Hong Kong adapted and persevered.

Remember the Asian financial crisis, bird flu, Sars and bird flu again? Hong Kong not only survived—it prevailed.

SARS 2003

The 2003 SARS outbreak. Photo: Alex Hofford.

Before Leung became CE, we suffered through the lacklustre examples of Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as post-handover leaders—but the city’s vibrant pulse kept beating.

If there is one thing Hong Kong has proven since the handover 19 years ago, it’s that the people of this city are far stronger and better than their purported leaders. And therein you can place your hope and faith in the future. Given all that Hong Kong has overcome in the past, surely it can survive the lupine leadership of CY Leung and the shambolic Youngspiration debacle.

As events push forward, however, we must hope the city’s courts—which were standing on solid legal ground in denying LegCo seats to the Youngspiration pair after they transformed their oaths into a histrionic pro-independence performance—will not go that dangerous step beyond and invalidate any oath imbued with an improvisational protest.

While the NPC Standing Committee’s interpretation may allow for such a punitive approach, let’s count on independent Hong Kong judges not to take the bait.

If they do, of course, it’s time to hit the streets again—and in bigger-than-ever numbers.

Occupy Everywhere.

Comments

The government's purge of the legislature is appalling - Hong Kong's courts must stand firm