CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Prayer rally prior to Beijing interpretation

HONG KONG (SE): In anticipation of the bombshell dropped by Beijing in interpreting the fate of two newly-elected members of the Legislative Council (LegCo), Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang, the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong organised a prayer rally on November 6.

Beijing had announced that it would hand down an interpretation of Article 104 on November 7, preempting a ruling from the Court of First Instance, which had held a hearing beginning on November 3, but has yet to give a ruling.

“This is not an interpretation, but an act of imposition. The original article in the Basic Law only says the oath should be done in accordance with law,” Paul Ng Wai-kit, the chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission, told UCAN.

The rally prayed for respect for rule of law on the part of both the Central People’s Government and Hong Kong authorities.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed its interpretation unanimously and on November 7 announced that the pair would not be allowed a third chance to take their oaths as LegCo members and, in future, only one opportunity will be granted. Nor will they be able to run in a subsequent by-election

The two have already been barred from entering the LegCo building.

The official interpretation says that people taking public office must swear to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and declare their allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

The most controversial aspect of the Beijing ruling is the use of the words sincerely and solemnly, which invites a subjective interpretation of any oath.

The third condition, accurately, at least has an objective criteria to measure it by. A second go at taking the oath is forbidden.

There was shock in Hong Kong at the manner in which the decision was handed down. In a statement on November 7, the Hong Kong Bar Association said Beijing’s interpretation is unnecessary and inappropriate.

“The way in which the matter has been handled would inevitably give the impression that the (National People’s Congress) is effectively legislating for Hong Kong, thereby casting doubts on the commitment of the Central People’s Government to abide by the principles of ‘One Country Two Systems, Hong Kong People Ruling Hong Kong and High Degree of Autonomy’,” the statement says.

The City Concern of Christian Fellowship Hong Kong joined the Justice and Peace Commission at the prayer rally and Father Carlos Cheung Sam-yui asked God to bless the gathering with peace to allow a free expression of views and pleas.

He said he hopes that the prayer can awaken the conscience of both the Central People’s Government and the Hong Kong authorities, so that they may be able to understand that the function of law is to defend values, not protect personal or vested interests.

Father Cheung added that he hopes both governments will be able to respect the rule of law and not reduce the court to a means of cracking down on dissidents and expanding their own power.

The rally was then blessed prior to joining a bigger march organised by the Civil Human Rights Front.

Setting out from the Southorn Playground in Wanchai, the rally stopped outside the High Court in Admiralty to mourn the attack on the rule of law. It then proceeded to the Court of Final Appeal.

Some people said they were disappointed at the frivolous behaviour of the Yau and Leung, but others were simply upset over the untimely intervention from Beijing.

While organisers claimed a 13,000-strong turnout, the police put the number at 8,000 at its peak.

Lina Chan Lai-na, the secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission, pointed out that this is the fifth time the People’s Congress has interpreted Hong Kong law.

However, she said she believes that this case is especially serious as the matter, which is an internal issue to Hong Kong and has no need for any intervention, is still before the court.

She also believes the establishment camps in the LegCo should not have threatened adjournments during the oath-taking saga.

Ma Ngok, a scholar in politics, told the Kung Kao Po that the intervention has opened a floodgate for the Central People’s Government to manipulate the Basic Law, as well as harming the promised high degree of autonomy and the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary system.

He added that he believes that it has eroded the trust of the Hong Kong people in the One Country Two Systems arrangement.

Ma said that while Beijing may have the power to interpret the law, this time he believes it has acted under the pretext of suppressing Hong Kong autonomy and he is worried that this precedent will allow it to be done again when it deems it politically expedient in the future.

Various Christian groups, individuals and community leaders have expressed their concern about the dictatorial nature of the interpretation of issue, but Beijing’s media mouthpiece, Xinhua, says it “safeguards the authority of the Basic Law and the rule of law in Hong Kong (and) complies with the common aspiration of the entire Chinese people, including the compatriots in Hong Kong.”

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