An ousted lawmaker has said that the latest disqualification of four democratically-elected lawmakers effectively strips voters of their ability to monitor the government.

The High Court on Friday ruled to disqualify Democracy Groundwork’s Lau Siu-lai, Demosisto’s Nathan Law, the League of Social Democrats’ Leung Kwok-hung and architectural sector lawmaker Edward Yiu.

Pro-democracy lawmakers said the root cause for the disqualification was the interpretation of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s de facto constitution – issued by Beijing last year, which decreed that lawmakers must take the oath solemnly and accurately.

long hair leung kwok hung lawmaker DQ legco oath
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

The legislature’s president Andrew Leung, who is pro-Beijing, said the four disqualified lawmakers will be given two weeks to pack their belongings and leave their offices in the Legislative Council Complex.

The interpretation was first issued during the government’s attempt to disqualify two localist lawmakers. But the government took further action on four more pro-democracy lawmakers in December. The court ruled that the four did not take their oaths as required and were thus disqualified since October 12 last year.

‘Erase election results’

Veteran lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said in a press conference held by the pro-democracy camp that the government abused the law in order to erase election results.

“This would not happen in any place that claims to be a democratic civilisation,” he said. “We will never regret representing Hong Kong people’s demand for universal suffrage, never regret monitoring the government.”

“But this is not about us. Hongkongers can use their votes to ask lawmakers to monitor the government – this function has been eliminated,” he said. “This is something no Hongkonger can accept.”

The ousting of the four lawmakers means the pro-democracy camp has lost its veto power at LegCo, meaning it can no longer block bills, motions and amendments from the pro-Beijing camp.

A direct implication could be that lawmakers would apply to change the Rules of Procedure to stop filibustering – currently a last resort measure used by the democrats in a legislature controlled by the pro-Beijing camp.

Nathan La
Nathan Law. File photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Nathan Law, the youngest lawmaker ever elected, said: “Suppression from the government is nothing to fear – the most frightening thing is when people become used to it and do not choose to resist.”

“Personally I don’t feel very sad, because I am a protester. I am just returning to the field that I am familiar with,” the former student leader said.

But he added that the decision also hurt the livelihood of his staff members: “This is why I despise the government.”

lawmaker DQ legco oath
Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Edward Yiu said the public could see that they tried their best to challenge the government’s policies in the past nine months.

“We revealed what the government tried to hide… we made the government fear us. That’s why the government had to use all means to disqualify us,” he said.

Lau Siu-lai warned that the government is using a “carrot and stick” approach, issuing livelihood benefits whilst taking harsh measures to suppress the pro-democracy camp.

“We cannot relax. We cannot be tricked,” she said.

The four said they will appeal the ruling.

lawmaker DQ legco oath
Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

Strong support 

Members of the pro-democracy camp showed strong support for the four.

Lawmaker Alvin Yeung, a barrister, said he did not agree with all of the contents of the ruling, but said the blame should be placed on the government.

“The government suing lawmakers – it should never have happened,” he said.

He said that more than 127,000 votes were voided with the ruling.

“The Basic Law interpretation was roughly made – it lacked legal rationale,” he said. “It did not only interpret the law but changed the law – it is a violation of the rule of law principle.”

Eddie Chu Hoi-dick
Eddie Chu. File photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Eddie Chu said the government has “declared war” on them and they will retaliate.

“Today I did not hear any of my colleagues say that they will respect the decision of the court – why would we not say that? The Basic Law interpretation has crushed Hong Kong’s rule of law,” he said.

“The public must show our strength and rise up again,” he added.

Claudia Mo Man-ching
Claudia Mo. File photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo turned emotional during the press conference.

“In my five years in the legislature, I have never been so angry – so ridiculously angry,” she said.

She said when Chief Executive Carrie Lam invited lawmakers for a private meeting earlier, she asked Lam why did she not invite the four lawmakers.

“She said they were undergoing a legal procedure. I asked her if she knew they would be disqualified. She did not answer me.”

Claudia Mo Man-ching
Claudia Mo. File photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

She said the government challenged the four lawmakers so that the pro-Beijing camp could win more seats in the by-election and strengthen its advantage.

The two lawmakers previously disqualified were from the Kowloon West and the New Territories East constituencies. Two of the four lawmakers disqualified on Friday were also elected in the two areas.

“We need to get 90 per cent of the votes to win back the two seats – the shamelessness of this government is unimaginable,” she said.

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.