Hong Kong Bar Association: China Action Threatens Judicial Independence

When the Chinese government barred two newly elected politicians from taking their seats in Hong Kong’s parliament, the Hong Kong Bar Association spoke out.

The Hong Kong Bar Association is not taking recent actions by the Chinese government lying down.

In September, two young pro-independence politicians were elected to serve in the Hong Kong legislature, and during their swearing-in changed the words to their oaths of office in a way that was seen as insulting China. This week, the Chinese government prevented Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung from assuming their roles.

The situation drew concern from Hong Kong lawyers after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), which represents the interests of the Chinese legislature, issued a new interpretation of a constitutional provision, finding that because the politicians did not correctly take their oaths, they could not take office.

“Retaking the oath is out of the question once the initial oath-taking process has breached the legal requirements and been ruled invalid,” stated Lei Fei, the chairman of NPC’s Basic Law Committee, according to the Washington Post.

The move led to mass protests by activists and more than 2,000 lawyers.

The Hong Kong Bar Association had released a statement [PDF] ahead of the decision last week, saying the controversy should have been resolved in court:

The Bar takes the view that if the NPCSC insists on interpreting the Basic Law in response to the incident at this stage, it will deal a severe blow to the independence of the judiciary and the power of final adjudication of the Hong Kong court. It will also seriously undermine the confidence of the Hong Kong people and the international community in the high degree of autonomy of the [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] under the principle of One Country, Two Systems. The irreparable harm it will do to Hong Kong far outweighs any purpose it could possibly achieve.

The association’s stance was shared by the British Foreign Office, which spoke out against the ruling on Monday.

“We urge the Chinese and Hong Kong SAR governments, and all elected politicians in Hong Kong, to refrain from any actions that fuel concerns or undermine confidence in the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said, according to Reuters.

Hundreds of lawyers wearing black stage a silent protest in Hong Kong. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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