HONG KONG, Oct 19 — Hong Kong’s leader sparked fury yesterday after he launched a court bid against two pro-independence lawmakers which could block them from taking up their parliamentary seats.
Chief executive Leung Chun-ying is seen by critics as a pro-Beijing stooge and his move comes as fears grow that China is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.
Hong Kong was handed back by Britain to China in 1997 under an agreement protecting its freedoms for 50 years, but there are concerns those liberties are being eroded.
Rising tensions have sparked calls for Hong Kong to break completely from Beijing and a new wave of legislators who were voted in last month support independence and self-determination.
Leung’s late-night court bid came after new pro-independence lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung draped themselves with “Hong Kong is not China” banners while taking their oath of office last week in the Legislative Council (Legco) — Hong Kong’s lawmaking body.
The oath specifies Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China.
The pair’s pledges were rejected after both refused to pronounce China properly.
Yau was heard to replace the words “the People’s Republic of China” with “the People’s ref***king of Zeena”.
Newly-elected Legco president Andrew Leung — a pro-Beijing lawmaker — had indicated he was prepared to give them a second chance and both were expected to take the oath again this morning, which, if approved, would allow them to officially take up their seats.
But at the eleventh-hour the justice department, acting for the chief executive and the justice secretary, sought a review of that decision, arguing they should be disqualified based on their first oath.
The Legco president opposed the application.
In a hearing last night at the High Court, Baggio's lawyer Hectar Poon said his client “does not accept that the chief executive has any standing to mount any legal proceedings”.
But department of justice counsel Johnny Mok said the lawmakers had brought the trouble upon themselves.
Judge Thomas Au refused to grant an application for an interim injunction against the oaths being retaken today.
But he agreed to allow the requested judicial review into the decision to give them a second chance, which will go ahead on November 3.
It is unclear how the judicial review will affect their future as lawmakers if they are successfully sworn in today.
Baggio described the legal bid as a “political decision”, and accused the chief executive of ambush.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok accused the chief executive of putting political pressure on the court.
“(He) pays no respect to the dignity and the independence of our legislature,” Kwok told the South China Morning Post. — AFP