Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Secretary for Justice lodged a judicial review Friday against four pro-democracy lawmakers over the oaths they took during the legislature’s swearing-in session in October.

The four lawmakers being challenged include: Localist lawmaker Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law of the Demosistō party, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, and Edward Yiu Chung-yim representing the architecture sector.

Edward Yiu Chung-yim, Lau Siu-lai, Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law
Photo: LSD.

The government has asked the court to declare the offices of the four lawmakers vacant. It submitted the applications moments before the court closed on Friday evening.

“The SAR government emphasised that the decision to start the legal proceedings is purely based on legal and enforcement concerns. There is no political consideration involved,” the government said in a statement.

The judicial review challenges came after the High Court disqualified Youngspiration’s politicians Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang from the legislature last week owing to their controversial oath-taking conduct.

Pro-democracy lawmakers held a protest outside the legislature, accusing the government of initiating a “coup d’etat” and “declaring war on voters.”

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Nathan Law, Edward Yiu, Lau Siu-lai and other pro-democracy lawmakers held a protest outside the legislature.

Law, the youngest lawmaker elected in September’s election, called the government’s claim that there was no political consideration involved “nonsense.”

“I must state once again that this series of oath controversies is suppression by the regime against all of the democratic forces. It is an attempt to create a period of time with several vacant seats, and to allow themselves to do whatever they like after they strip the pro-democracy camp of their majority and veto power in the geographical constituency,” said Law.

“This is a difficult challenge for the whole pro-democracy camp, I hope we all cooperate to face it.”

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Nathan Law.
More oaths in the spotlight

During October’s swearing-in session, Lau read her oath in slow motion over a period of almost ten minutes. She later said on social media that the purpose was to deprive the pledge of its meaning by reading out each word in isolation.

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The oath on October 12 was accepted by the legislature’s clerk at the time, but the president later rejected it and gave Lau another chance to retake the oath. Lau took the second oath on November 2 at a normal speed and it was accepted.

Yiu added phrases such as “for democracy and for Hong Kong’s sustainable development” to his oath. His oath was rejected twice by the legislature’s clerk. He retook the oath a week later and it was accepted.

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The pledge of pro-Beijing Wong Ting-kwong was also rejected after omitting “Hong Kong” from his oath. His second attempt was accepted. The government has not indicated any intention to challenge his office.

The oaths of Leung and Law were not rejected by the clerk. But the government said that Law changed the tone on the phrase “People’s Republic of China” to make it sound like a question.

Law said after reading his oath: “This sacred ceremony has become a tool of the authorities trying to suppress public opinion under absolute authority and regulations.”

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Leung brought props to the stage, read the oath at an unusual pace, shouted slogans before and after reading his oath, and did not sign the oath afterwards.

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Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.