HONG KONG – The Hong Kong authorities on Friday banned a former lawmaker who had been removed from office for improper oath-taking two years ago from running in a legislature by-election next month.
Lau Siu-lai, who won a seat in the 2016 Legislative Council election but was ousted along with five other pro-democracy legislators-elect after stirring controversy during oath-taking, called the government shameful for accusing her of not genuinely embracing China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.
A returning officer charged with confirming candidates for the by-election has invalidated Lau’s nomination under the claim that advocacy for self-determination or independence is inconsistent with upholding the Basic Law — the mini-constitution in effect since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 — and makes it impossible to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong as required.
Lau was said to have advocated for the right of Hong Kongers to determine their own future, including not ruling out independence as an option.
The government said in a statement it supports the returning officer’s decision while denying any political censorship as alleged.
“The decision and its arguments are ridiculous and a bunch of lies,” Lau told reporters while protesting with a dozen democracy advocates outside the government complex late Friday. She called the move an “ugly political persecution against me.”
In the swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 12, 2016, Lau read out her oath extremely slowly and with pauses between each word in a protest gesture she later admitted was meant to render it meaningless.
Upon the government’s challenge, the High Court ruled that Lau did not “genuinely and faithfully” take the oath and disqualified her from serving.
A university lecturer by profession, Lau sprang to political fame during the “Occupy Central” movement in 2014, when a massive pro-democracy demonstration broke out across the territory calling for full democracy.
The pro-democracy camp has called the disqualifications a “coup” by the government to rob them of their seats in the legislature.
Four of the six vacated seats were filled in a by-election in March, with the pro-establishment camp clinching two of them.
Hong Kong was promised a 50-year status quo in its way of life following the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, but concerns have grown over Beijing’s perceived encroachment on rights and freedoms in the territory, spurring calls among some Hong Kong residents for self-determination if not outright independence.