The Legislative Council has demanded that four disqualified lawmakers return all of their salaries and operating expenses, saying it was the duty of the LegCo to recover the funds as public money was involved.

“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu will have to pay back between HK$2.7 and 3.1 million each, as they were never considered to be lawmakers. The votes they cast at the legislature, however, will remain valid.

The LegCo Commission – an administrative body which comprises mostly of pro-Beijing lawmakers – decided to send them demand letters following a special meeting on Monday.

Edward Yiu, Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai and Nathan Law
Edward Yiu, Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai and Nathan Law taking their oaths. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP/LegCo.

LegCo President Andrew Leung said the decision was made after considering legal advice from in-house legal counsel and external senior counsels.

“Considering the legal advice, as public money is involved, it is the Commission’s duty to recover the funds,” he said. “According to the interpretation of the Basic Law, no entitlements shall be enjoyed if they are not lawmakers.”

Leung said the four will be given a “reasonable time frame” of four weeks to reply to the Commission.

The lawmakers had said it would be “ridiculous” if the LegCo asks them to pay back wages and subsidies dating back to October 2016.

See also: Explainer & Timeline: The oath fallout and Beijing’s intervention in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution

Andrew Leung
Andrew Leung. File Photo: LegCo.

The four were disqualified by the Court of First Instance in July, after they had worked for nine months as lawmakers. The operating expenses included the wages of dozens of assistants they hired.

Asked if it was fair to the four who had served their duties, Leung did not reply directly: “We have to follow the judgment of the Court of First Instance. And because public fund[s] [are] involved, we have to act prudently in this matter. We have never come across cases like that, so we are taking steps to move one step at a time.”

Leung added that the votes that the four cast at the LegCo would remain valid.

‘Outright political suppression’

Nathan Law said Andrew Leung should take responsibility: “He was the one who approved our oaths… Everything we did afterwards such as voting and hiring [assistants] was done following his approval.”

Long Hair Leung Kwok-hung Nathan Law Lau Siu-lai Edward Yiu
Photo: In-Media.

Law said Beijing was using all kinds of means to bar them from running again, by forcing them to declare bankruptcy: “This is outright political suppression.”

Potential candidates who are bankrupt cannot enter legislative election races.

Yiu said the LegCo was taking away their intellectual property in terms of the work they did for the legislature: “If they want our wages back, they must pay an amount of compensation equal to our professional contribution over the past nine months.”

Yiu, of the surveying sector, also said that – if he lost his licence because of bankruptcy – he may not be able to run in his sector ever again.

Beijing interpretation 

The court ruled that they were not considered lawmakers from October 12 last year, when they took their oaths of office. It came after Beijing’s controversial interpretation of the Basic Law which demanded that lawmakers take their oaths solemnly and accurately. Before the four were ousted, two other localist lawmakers Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching were also disqualified.

The LegCo went to court to ask Leung and Yau to pay back HK$1.86 million wages and subsidies.

Lau Siu-lai and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung have filed appeals against their disqualifications.

The by-elections for Hong Kong Island, Kowloon West, New Territories East, and the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency are scheduled to be held on March 11 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.