The Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has refused to answer questions on Monday from four pro-democracy lawmakers who are facing legal challenges over their oath-taking ceremonies. The legal action, brought by the government, may disqualify them as legislators.

The four included “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Edward Yiu Chung-yim and Lau Siu-lai. Last Friday, the Chief Executive and Secretary for Justice applied for judicial reviews against them, following the disqualification of two localist politicians.

legco john tsang questions
Photo: LegCo.
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“The Department of Justice gave us legal advice that, before a final ruling is made by the court, public officials including me need to follow the stance stated in a letter to the Legislative Council president by the Chief Secretary… that we will not answer questions and statements from these four people,” Tsang said.

Tsang made the statement at a session of the Panel on Financial Affairs, after he gave an introduction to Hong Kong’s current economic situation.

John Tsang
John Tsang. Photo: LegCo.

Leung, of the League of Social Democrats, voiced opposition to Tsang’s stance.

“I have not lost my qualification, otherwise what am I doing sitting here?” he said. “Previously, they said they cannot know if [lawmakers being challenged] were still lawmakers, so whatever they said did not mean they recognised the statuses; Now they don’t even answer, it’s going further and further. What is this government?”

“Why don’t you go to the court to apply for an injunction, to bar us from being lawmakers? We have the rule of law, not rule by law, or rule by ruler,” he added.

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

The pro-democracy camp asked for a recess to discuss the matter and the chairman of the panel granted it.

As the meeting resumed, the legal adviser for the Legislative Council disagreed with Tsang’s statement, saying the members still enjoy their statuses as lawmakers until the court grants leave for the legal challenges.

Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu of the Civic Party argued that the oath taken by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying – when he took office in 2012 – was also being challenged by a person.

“Why do we not hear any legal advice about suspending him from performing his duties?” he said.

cy leung oath
Leung Chun-ying’s oath-taking. Photo: GovHK.

‘You should resign’

IT functional constituency lawmaker Charles Mok urged Tsang to resist orders from above in the government and answer questions from the four.

“Or at least, you should resign,” he said. “Do not allow your boss – taking a radical route – to hijack you. Even the pro-Beijing camp said this is a major issue of right and wrong – they all disappeared [from the conference room], they did not support this move. Why would you support this move by your boss? This was clearly Leung Chun-ying’s election campaign, it’s very insidious to use you.”

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung of the pro-Beijing Business and Professional Alliance said that he respected Tsang’s comments, but there were a lot of questions to be asked about the financial situation and the upcoming annual budget. It would be “unfair to citizens” if the questions were not answered.
“Do not let politics take over the livelihood that people care about,” he said.

The meeting lasted for another hour debating the issue before a motion was passed by 14 “yes” votes and nine “no” votes to adjourn the meeting.

Tsang is tipped to run for the Chief Executive elections in March next year.

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.