Pro-Beijing lawmaker Abraham Shek Lai-him slipped up during his swearing-in at the legislature last month, HKFP has found. Shek pronounced “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” as “Hong Kong Special Administration Region” and thus could find his oath invalidated in light of a recent, controversial ruling by Beijing which stated that oaths must be “accurate.”

Shek said he did not think it was a problem.

Abraham Shek Lai-him. File

The third most senior lawmaker of the current Council, Shek, 71, took his oath in English during the first LegCo meeting on October 12. He read “I, Abraham Shek Lai-him, swear by the Almighty God, that being a member of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region of the People’s Republic of China”.

At the time, Legislative Council Secretary-general Kenneth Chen Wei-on administered and accepted his oath. However, fellow pro-Beijing lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong omitted “Hong Kong” from his oath on the same day and was allowed by the LegCo president to retake it the following week.

The pronunciation of words in the oath has been a controversial topic during the past month. Two localist Youngspiration lawmakers who pronounced China as “Chee-na” – deemed by many to be a derogatory term – have since been unable to retake their oaths again, following protests by the pro-Beijing camp.

The duo received a legal challenge lodged by the Chief Executive and subsequently a Basic Law interpretation by China’s top legislative body in an effort to remove them from office.

Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching. File photo: HKFP

The interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Monday sought to define the term “in accordance with law.” It said oath-taking is a mandatory procedure for assuming public office, and lawmakers must “accurately, completely and solemnly” read out phrases such as the full name of Hong Kong.

Shek, of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong party, has been a lawmaker since 2000. He was automatically elected through the real estate and construction functional constituency four times in a row since 2004 without contestants.

Andrew Leung. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Should Shek’s oath be deemed invalid, it would call into question whether the election of the LegCo president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen was legal, as Shek moderated the process after Leung Yiu-chung, the second most senior lawmaker, handed over his role as moderator to Shek.

In response, Shek told HKFP he did not think there was any problem in his oath, dismissing it as only a difference of “noun and adjective”.

“My pronunciation is very good,” he said. “The issue of ‘administrative’ and ‘administration’ is not of pronunciation, it’s an issue of adjective and noun.”

“There is no inaccuracy there, the meaning of the word is the same.”

Claudia Mo. Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.

Civic Party Lawmaker Claudia Mo told HKFP that there was an inaccuracy in Shek’s oath.

“You can’t change a proper noun,” she said, adding that Shek should retake his oath.

Asked about whether the LegCo presidential election Shek moderated was legal, she said it may cast doubts.

“But as you know, politics in Hong Kong are above [legal issues],” she said.

Accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong walked by and told Shek with a smile that his English was being challenged.

Pro-democracy lawmakers Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu Chung-yim were also among those who had their first oaths rejected by the president, but Lau and Yiu have since retaken their oaths.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.