Lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung and the Civic Party have slammed a decision by the Legislative Council to retrieve HK$1.86 million from two localist politicians, calling it “political suppression.”

Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chun-hang, whose statuses as lawmakers were stripped by a court, will have to return a full amount of HK$930,000 per person in wages and subsidies paid to them. It includes wages to assistants. The decision was made by the LegCo Commission which consists of nine pro-Beijing and four pro-democracy camp lawmakers. According to the LegCo president, the decision was not an unanimous one.

“Is this crazy?” Law said. “Before the court ruling, they were doing their duties as lawmakers, how can the LegCo ask for the October wages back?”

Nathan Law taking oath. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

“If there is a lawmaker being disqualified after a year of working, should he pay back the wages and subsidies for the past year?” he added. “Should we be prepared to go bankrupt now for being a pro-democracy lawmaker?”

‘Tool’ of Beijing

“The LegCo Commission is just a tool for the pro-Beijing camp to exercise political suppression,” Law said.

The Civic Party said in a statement that the work done by lawmakers for the public was mandated by voters, and it was “extremely unfair” to the lawmakers and their voters to take back their wages and subsidies.

“[We] cannot agree with the LegCo Commission’s decision which is obviously political suppression,” it read.

LegCo. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

A concern group set up by lawmakers’ assistants said the incident set a “very bad precedent.”

“Currently several lawmakers are facing judicial reviews [challenging their statuses], if this sets the precedent, other lawmakers may face demands for even larger sums of wages and subsidies – it will directly affect the wage security of assistants,” it read.

“It may also spark a chilling effect whereby lawmakers will be held back from giving wages and using subsidies, affecting the legislature’s work,” it added.

The court ruling that disqualified the duo did not state whether, or how much, they should give back to the Council. The LegCo Commission made the decision referring to Beijing’s Basic Law interpretation, concluding that they never assumed office and no corresponding entitlements shall therefore be enjoyed.

Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching outside the High Court. File Photo: Cloud.

Baggio Leung said the court was still handling the appeal against the ruling that disqualified them, and the LegCo Commission should only ask for a proportion of the wages and subsidies “according to common sense,” even if they lose the appeal.

“Such structural violence that only follows political ideology and ignores common sense would only crush the system of Hong Kong that we were once proud of,” he said.

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.