“I thank you. I salute you. I love you all” – Martin Lee Chu-ming (李柱銘), lawyer and founding chairperson of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong
It was the only three sentences uttered by the lawyers as they marched from the High Court in Admiralty to the Final Court of Appeal building in Central. An estimated 1,000 marched in silence to protest the Beijing Government’s direct involvement in the affairs of Hong Kong by directly changing the mini-constitution of the city without the consent of the Legislative Council.
Beijing ruled oaths for Hong Kong lawmakers must be taken ‘sincerely and solemnly for them to be valid.’ It is a response to Baggio Leung, 30, and Yau Wai-Ching, 25 who used vulgar and derogatory terms when taking their oaths as elected members of the Legislative Council. The unilateral decision by Beijing comes before the case was to be ruled by the Hong Kong Courts.
“I think China recognises that one of the most precious things we have here is the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law,” said solicitor John Clancey to Reuters. “In the guise of putting forth an interpretation, they really have attempted to legislate for Hong Kong … The disappointment comes in because I think they really rushed things through … to interfere with the court decision.”
Under the 1997 agreement, when Hong Kong returned to China, the territory is to have an independent justice system as well as the rule of law, similar to democracies around the world. China has the right to make ‘interpretations’ or to clarify things under Basic Law. There have been four interpretations of Basic Law by Beijing but this is the first time it has come before the courts have ruled or the Legislative Council has asked it to do so.
This intervention by Beijing sets a dangerous precedent especially as there is a growing suspicion by Hong Kongers on what the communist vision for the future of the territory. It also comes at a time when there are growing calls for an independent Hong Kong from youth and localist leaders.
Silent protests are a way the legal community protests any decisions by the mainland government. There have been four silent marches since the hand-over.