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Hong Kong’s Executive and Legislative Branches Clash

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China Power

Hong Kong’s Executive and Legislative Branches Clash

Pro-Beijing legislators staged a walkout, preventing two localist legislators from being sworn in.

Hong Kong’s Executive and Legislative Branches Clash
Credit: VOA/Wikimedia Commons

After a week of defending Hong Kong’s constitution, known as the Basic Law, and criticizing the legislators-elect for their improper swearing-in oaths, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung and Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung mounted a last-minute interim injunction specifically against two localist legislators.

In an effort to prevent the two legislators, Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, from being sworn in, a favorable ruling on the injunction could lead to the expulsion of the democratically elected officials, as determined by the Basic Law, and would effectively begin to dismantle the Basic Law itself.

The Executive’s court challenge follows a farcical swearing in ceremony earlier in the month where several legislators, from both sides of the divide, altered their oaths. The President of the Council, Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, allowed each of the legislators to retake their oaths in the correct manner on Wednesday, but CY Leung and Yuen had other ideas, launching their legal challenge on Tuesday evening. The court swiftly ruled against the government.

Unhappy with the court’s ruling, pro-Beijing legislators staged a walkout directly after their pro-Beijing legislator was sworn in on Wednesday. The walkout meant there were not enough members in the chamber to form an official quorum and thereby invalidated any subsequent proceedings, including the swearing in of the other, non-pro-Beijing legislators-elect. The action is seen as a violation and intentional dismantling of the separation of powers that exists in Hong Kong and pits the Executive branch directly against the Legislative branch of government. Lawyers representing the President and the Legislative branch of government argued that the move was a “serious deprivation of the constitutional rights” of the two lawmakers-elect.

“I want to emphasize the president has an important institutional duty … to protect the institution elected by different sectors of society,” said Jat Sew-tong SC, representing the Legislative Council President. “He has to safeguard the interests of all elected councilors.”

Justice Secretary Yuen rejected accusations that the Executive Branch, which is selected by China, sought to undermine the Legislative Council.

“If the views of the president of the Legislative Council differ from that of the executive branch, the most suitable way to handle the problem is to leave it to the courts,” said Yuen according to the South China Morning Post.

Meanwhile, pan-democrats have accused CY Leung of orchestrating today’s walk out in a bid to prevent the introduction of a petition for a committee to investigate his receipt of HK$50 million from Australian engineering firm, UGL. Civic Party legislator Dennis Kwok, representative of the legal sector, said the walkout was intentional, and disrespectful to the city’s court system.

“The collaboration of the government and pro-establishment camp in the walkout … proves that the legal challenge by the administration is a farce,” he said, referring to CY Leung. “How much do they want to sacrifice to achieve their political aims?”

Kwok fears that such actions will result in another interpretation of the Basic Law by China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee. According to the South China Morning Post, one mainland official has warned that the Chinese government is not unwilling to step in to do just that. This would not likely ease the tense political situation in Hong Kong.

In an effort to disqualify two democratically elected legislators, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing politicians have exercised their majority power, and now risk crippling the function of the Legislative branch. It is only a matter of time before the public opinion tide turns against their actions. Will they hold true to “one country, two systems”?