Beijing intervenes in HK politics, blocks lawmakers from taking office
China’s parliament has passed an interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law that says lawmakers must swear allegiance to the city as part of China, Beijing’s most direct intervention in the territory’s legal and political system since the 1997 handover.world Updated: Nov 07, 2016 21:44 IST
China’s rubber-stamp Parliament ruled on Monday that two elected lawmakers in Hong Kong will not be allowed to hold office because they refused to take the official oath as a show of defiance against Beijing.
Beijing’s rare intervention in semi-autonomous Hong Kong’s politics is being seen as the latest sign of the mainland’s attempt to tighten its grip on the city, ruled under the “one country, two systems” protocol.
Pro-independence legislators Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung had refused to swear allegiance to Beijing last month.
The intervention by the National People’s Congress (NPC) was done according to the interpretation of a Hong Kong law that says legislators must take swear allegiance to the mainland.
“China’s top legislature on Monday adopted an interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) by a unanimous vote,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Article 104 states: “When assuming office, the chief executive, principal officials, members of the executive council and of the legislative council, judges of courts at all levels and other members of the judiciary in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region must, in accordance with law, swear to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.”
The report explained the decision was taken under the Basic Law, which has governed Hong Kong since the former British territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
It amounted to the China’s most direct intervention since the handover. The “one country, two systems” formula gives Hong Kong considerable autonomy, including judicial freedom.
Leung Chun-ying, the Beijing-backed chief executive of Hong Kong, was quoted by news agencies as saying: “What is a constitutional fact is that Hong Kong has been part of China, is part of China and will be part of China.”
But Kevin Yam, convener of the Progressive Lawyers Group, told Bloomberg: “This is a disaster for the standing of the judiciary in Hong Kong, but it goes beyond the judiciary…We are essentially seeing an encroachment into Hong Kong’s legislative autonomy.”
According to Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper, there was a tense standoff overnight between police and protesters outside the central government’s liaison office in Sai Wan on Sunday night.
“The clash between officers and the 4,000-strong crowd gathered in the area to protest against Beijing’s intervention in the oath-taking saga saw the use of pepper spray by police, while one officer was allegedly injured by protesters hurling bricks,” the report said. At least four people were arrested.