Hong Kong’s top court has denied ousted Youngspiration lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung permission to move forward with their appeal over their oath-taking.
The pair sought to overturn the court’s decision to disqualify them from the legislature. Yau was represented by Senior Counsel Gladys Li Chi-hei, whilst Queen’s Counsel David Pannick was acting for Leung.
In rejecting the appeal application, the Court of Final Appeal judges said that the grounds under which leave was sought were “not reasonably argued.”
The duo were kicked out of the Legislative Council last October, after displaying a “Hong Kong is not China” flag and changing the wording of their oaths in a way some deemed insulting to Chinese people.
The government subsequently lodged a legal challenge against them, winning at the Court of First Instance on November 15 and the Court of Appeal on November 30. After their appeal application was rejected by the High Court, they took the case directly to the Court of Final Appeal.
Before a ruling was handed down at the Court of First Instance, Beijing issued a rare interpretation of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s de facto constitution – which stated that lawmakers must take their oaths sincerely and accurately. The interpretation sparked protests by the general public and the legal sector.
‘Right to vote’
Pannick argued that the court should add the words “subject to proportionality,” in interpreting the standing committee’s interpretation. He said the court should take into account the right to vote and the right to stand for office in interpreting the wording of the interpretation.
Pannick also argued that the court should consider the words “declined or neglected,” in light of his client’s request to retake the oath the following day.
“Art. 104 is a constitutional requirement, but it doesn’t state what happens if my client fails to take a valid oath on day one but is willing to take it on day two,” he said.
Li argued that the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance does not state the specifics of the oath taker’s conduct or manner. She added that their beliefs should not be taken into account, as they should not be “pre-judged” to have declined or neglected to take the oath.
The words of the oath “may not be in accordance with your belief, but that does not affect the purpose of the oath,” she said.
Four other lawmakers – Lau Siu-lai, Leung Kwok-hung, Edward Yiu and recently jailed Nathan Law – have since been disqualified by the Court of First Instance over their oaths. So far, only Leung has expressed a clear intention to appeal.
The Court of Final Appeal’s judges said the reasoning behind their rejection of Yau and Leung’s bid will be handed down later.
Additional reporting: Catherine Lai and Karen Cheung.