‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung, the veteran democracy campaigner, and elected member of Hong Kong’s Legco, is being threatened with expulsion along with three other legislators. The four have been taken to court over alleged violation of procedures. These charges are trumped up and have been imposed retroactively.
The prosecution claims the oaths the four swore when assuming their Legco seats were not valid as defined by the Chinese dictatorship and its Hong Kong puppet regime.
This interpretation of the law by China’s unelected National People’s Congress Standing Committee saw charges handed down after the elections and after all the oaths had been sworn. It effectively imposes new criteria for oath-taking by legislators, which previously was covered only by the statutes of the legislature itself. Until now a legislator could only be removed by a two-thirds majority in the Legco, and only then in cases of serious misconduct such as corruption.
The case against the four lawmakers is weak and arbitrary. Long Hair’s oath is being challenged as insufficiently “sincere and solemn” because he used props – a yellow umbrella (the symbol of the mass 2014 struggle) and because he tore up a picture of a controversial Chinese ruling – while reading the oath.
He has been elected to the legislature three times previously and conducted himself no differently – yet those oaths were never challenged. The prosecution also alleges that chanting slogans, “speaking too slowly” and “pausing too often” make the other lawmakers’ oath invalid.
It is clear that the charges represent a crackdown against the four legislators who are all from opposition forces. Their election was the result of an unprecedented anti-establishment wave that shook the ruling elite in the September elections with one in four voters choosing ‘radical’ candidates.
This court action establishes a new precedent for keeping oppositional voices out of the Legco and erasing tens of thousands of votes cast in the September elections. It is a judicial “coup” against the results of these elections, which did not go the way the government hoped.
The disqualification of the four would also prepare the ground for the reintroduction of Article 23 – a tough national security law that was defeated 14 years ago by mass protests. This is part of the agenda of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the hardliner pro-Beijing politician recently ‘elected’ Chief Executive by only a few hundred elite votes (a total of 777 votes).
Article 23 would severely restrict free speech and the right to protest and could possibly designate Socialist Action – the Socialist Party’s sister organisation in Hong Kong – a “foreign organisation” and make it illegal, as it already is in China.
Other events also confirm that these charges are part of a concerted attack on Hong Kong’s democracy movement. Less than a day after the elite chose the new Chief Executive, nine politicians and activists associated with the 2014 mass Umbrella Movement were arrested and face serious charges that could lead to long terms of imprisonment.
These measures are all part of an attempt by the Chinese regime to take away the limited democratic rights that exist in Hong Kong. Through the control of the courts, they want to impose political screening on the legislative elections, allowing the authorities to weed out ‘troublesome’ candidates while reinforcing other anti-democratic measures. These attacks can only be resisted by vigorous protests and a strategy to rebuild a fighting and truly mass-based democracy movement, with genuine internal democracy.
The Socialist Party stands in solidarity with the fight for democratic rights including the right to free speech and protest in Hong Kong and China. As part of an international campaign in solidarity with Long Hair and the movement for democratic rights in Hong Kong and China, we organised a protest outside of the Chinese Consulate in Melbourne in April.
By Socialist Party reporters