As of June 30-July 1, Martin Lee, dubbed the father of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, still remarked that the rule of law was under assault but still standing strong.
Today, democrats mourned the death of the rule of law after the court disqualified 4 legislators with retroactive effect to the day that they first took the oath on October 12, 2016.
The four disqualified legislators are Democracy Groundwork’s Lau Siu-lai, Demosisto’s Nathan Law, the League of Social Democrats’ Leung Kwok-hung (Long Hair) and architectural sector lawmaker Edward Yiu.
This ruling came after the court barred two legislators-elect, Sixtus Baggio LEUNG Chung-hang and YAU Wai-ching, from re-taking their oaths last Nov. The duo had displayed a “Hong Kong is not China” flag during their initial swearing-in ceremony.
What is at stake?
The rule of law: 1) Beijing issued an interpretation of the Basic Law in November 2016 right before the conclusion of judicial proceedings re: Leung and Yau. The interpretation was seen as direct interference with the judiciary’s independence. 2) Today’s ruling follows the NPCSC decision and is retroactive to the day when the 4 legislators first took the oath on Oct. 12, 2016. Retroactivity fundamentally violates the rule of law. 3) In following the NPCSC decision, the court also undid the electoral choices of HK people who cast their votes for these disqualified legislators.
Legislative oversight of executive actions: The regime’s plan is to deprive the minority pro-democracy legislators of their veto power. The government is bound to hold by-elections to fill vacated seats. If there is only one seat per district in the by-elections, the pan-dems would win, as what happened in the New Territories East by-election last year. However, the disqualification of 5 directly elected legislators (and one chosen from a functional constituency) by now means that some districts will have two vacated seats. Given their outsized resources and mobilization capabilities, the pro-establishment camp expects to win the second seat. This would eliminate the democrats’ veto power for the rest of the term, allowing the regime to change the rules of the game, push through the co-location of customs on the high-speed railway line (news suggests that Beijing will hold sovereignty over the tracks and platforms on HK territory), and most likely the Article 23 national security bill.
Pro-democracy legislators complained that the regime has declared a war on HK’s electors and vowed to “end business as usual” at the legislature.