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District councillors should take an oath, says CE

2021-01-12 HKT 13:12
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  • Carrie Lam says district councillors should count as public officers and take an oath of allegiance. File photo: RTHK
    Carrie Lam says district councillors should count as public officers and take an oath of allegiance. File photo: RTHK
Richard Pyne reports
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that district councillors and members of the election committee that select Hong Kong's leader should be regarded as "public officers" under the national security law and be required to take an oath of office.

Her remarks come as all civil servants have been told they must declare that they will uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the SAR, or face dismissal in the near future.

Article 104 of the Basic Law only requires the Chief Executive, principal officials, executive councillors, lawmakers, judges and members of the judiciary to take the oath when they assume office.

The requirement doesn’t apply to civil servants, district councillors or members of the 1,200-strong election committee, which include 117 district councillors.

However, article 6 of the national security law states that a Hong Kong resident standing for election or assuming public office shall confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR – without defining exactly who should be regarded as public officers.

Asked about the matter ahead of the weekly Exco meeting, Lam said the Basic Law sets out what she calls a “narrow” scope for the oath-taking requirement, whilst the national security law covers a “wider” scope.

She said there are varied definitions of “public officers” in local laws, and the government is still studying how to define the term.

But the CE pointed out that based on “common sense”, district councils, though without real political power, are important organisations within the city’s political system, and the 1,200 members of the election committee have the even more important duty to select the chief executive.

She said these two groups of people should be taken as “public officers” and be required to take the oath under the national security law.

Lam said the relevant work to amend the oath-taking laws will be incorporated into the government’s efforts to implement an interpretation of article 104 of the Basic Law by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in 2016.

She said she hopes the proposed amendment bill will be tabled to Legco for scrutiny as soon as possible.

The NPCSC ruling in 2016, among other things, requires public officials, including lawmakers to take their oath “sincerely and solemnly”, and “accurately and completely.” It also states that a public official deemed to have taken an invalid oath would not be allowed to re-take his or her oath.

The ruling came after some pro-democracy lawmakers used the oath-taking occasion in Legco as a forum for protest, with some having changed the wording of the oath or added extra phrases to it.

The NPCSC ruling came around the time that six pro-democracy lawmakers were stripped of their Legco seats.