A judicial ruling is the latest worrying development, and Taiwan will be taking noteby Isabel Hilton / November 16, 2016 / Leave a comment
Yesterday, the High Court in Hong Kong ruled that two pro-independence activists cannot take their seats on the legislative council (Legco). Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, members of the Youngspiration party, were elected in September but, at the swearing-in ceremony last month, deliberately mangled their oaths while holding a banner that read “Hong Kong is NOT China.”
They were not the first to use the swearing-in to make a political point. When Wong Yuman, elected as a representative of the People’s Party In 2012, coughed all the way through his first attempt and concluded by shouting, “Down with the Hong Kong communist regime,” he was allowed to retake the oath. On the second attempt, he began with a short prayer in which he asked God to forgive him for swearing a false oath, then recited it bizarrely.
The episode seems childish, but in an assembly in which more than half the seats are controlled by Beijing, genuinely elected representatives are possessed of little in the way of effective weapons. Until this month, however, they did have the support of a robust judiciary that had on occasion itself taken to the streets to defend Hong Kong’s judicial independence from the mainland.
In 2012, the Legco president, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, overruled protests by a Beijing loyalist and let Wong take his seat. Any further complaints he said, should be taken to the courts. This time, the Chinese government pre-empted the Hong Kong courts with a ruling by the National People’s Congress in Beijing that neither of the two delinquents would be allowed to retake the oath.