The Hong Kong High Court has disqualified pro-democracy lawmakers Edward Yiu, Nathan Law, Leung Kwok-Hung and Lau Siu-lai over the ways in which they took their oaths of office last year.
“The oath taker’s subjective intention or thinking is irrelevant… It is not [a] necessary element to find that the oath taker objectively intended to flout the law,” ruled Mr Justice Thomas Au.
Friday’s fresh round of disqualifications come after localists Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching were ousted from the legislature last November, bringing the total number of disqualified opposition lawmakers to six.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) July 14, 2017
With his opening and closing statements, Law sent the message that the requirement to take the oath was only a political tool and his rising intonation in pronouncing the word “country” expressed doubt or disrespect towards China as a legitimate sovereign of Hong Kong. It found that Leung’s protest actions lacked the required dignity and solemnity required, whilst Lau failed to commit to the oath because of her slow manner of delivery. Yiu’s use of extra words were included in an effort to add “part and parcel” to the oath, the court ruled.
Prior to November’s rulings, China’s top legislative body issued a controversial interpretation of the Basic Law, stipulating that oaths should be taken “accurately, completely and solemnly” without any modifications to the wording, while retaking of oaths was not allowed. Hundreds of lawyers marched in protest against the intervention, while demonstrators occupied the roads outside the Liaison Office – Beijing’s government organ in Hong Kong.
The opposition camp is now left with 24 remaining seats in the legislature.
The government sought to oust Yiu, Lau, Leung and Lau through a judicial review filed last December and heard in March.
During the oath-taking ceremony on October 12, Lau read her oath in slow motion over a period of almost ten minutes. The legislature’s clerk accepted her oath then, but the president later rejected it. Lau retook her oath in November.
Yiu added the phrase “for democracy and for Hong Kong’s sustainable development” in his first oath-taking attempt, which was rejected by the clerk. He added the phrase after the traditional oath during his second attempt, which was also not accepted. He retook his pledge the following week.
Law allegedly changed the tone as he read out “People’s Republic of China” to make it sound like a question, whereas Leung brought props to the stage and shouted slogans before and after reading his oath. Both pledges were accepted at the time.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong omitted “Hong Kong” from his oath and was allowed by the legislature’s president to retake it the following week. He was not challenged by the government.
Three of the disqualified lawmakers won in the geographical seat election. Nathan Law won 50,818 votes, Lau Siu-lai won 38,183, Leung Kwok-hung won 35,595 votes. The other disqualified lawmaker Edward Yiu won in the functional constituency’s architectural sector, where voters are sector professionals. He won 2,491 votes.