China's top legislature on November 7 adopted an interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) by a unanimous vote.
The interpretation was issued by the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee following the behavior of a handful of legislators-elect during the election of Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) and the subsequent swearing-in ceremony.
Article 104 of the Basic Law stipulates: "When assuming office, the chief executive, principal officials, members of the executive council and of the legislative council, judges of courts at all levels and other members of the judiciary in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region must, in accordance with law, swear to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China."
According to the interpretation of Article 104, "To uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China" and to bear "allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People' s Republic of China" are not only the legal content which must be included in the oath prescribed by the Article, but also the legal requirements and preconditions for standing for election in respect of or taking up the public office specified in the Article.
Oath taking is a legal prerequisite and required procedure for public officers elected to office, it said.
No public office shall be assumed, no corresponding powers or functions shall be exercised, and no corresponding entitlement shall be enjoyed by anyone who fails to lawfully and validly take the oath or who declines to take the oath, it spelled out.
An oath taker must take the oath sincerely and solemnly, and must accurately, completely and solemnly read out the oath prescribed by law, the content of which includes "will uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People' s Republic of China", according to the interpretation.
An oath taker is disqualified forthwith from assuming the public office specified in the Article if he or she declines to take the oath, the interpretation said.
Anyone who intentionally deviates from the written script or adds words that do not accord with the original oath prescribed by law, or is neither sincere or solemn shall be treated as challenging the oath. Thus, the oath is deemed invalid and the oath taker disqualified forthwith, it added.
The oath must be taken before a person authorized by law to administer the oath. The person administering the oath has the duty to ensure that the oath is taken in a lawful manner, the interpretation read.
The taking of the oath stipulated by Article 104 of the Basic Law is a legal pledge made by the public officers specified in the Article and is legally binding, it said.
The oath taker must sincerely believe in and strictly abide by the relevant oath prescribed by law. An oath taker who makes a false oath, or, who, after taking the oath, engages in conduct in breach of the oath, shall bear legal responsibility in accordance with law, it added.
A spokesperson with the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council issued a statement hailing the adoption of the interpretation as "absolutely necessary" and timely.
"The interpretation demonstrates the Central Government's firm determination and will against 'Hong Kong independence,'" the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson went on to say that the interpretation "underscores the authority of the Basic Law and the rule of law in Hong Kong."
Hong Kong is a local administrative region directly under the Central Government, the spokesperson confirmed, and the LegCo is a SAR legislative organ set up in accordance with the Hong Kong Basic Law.
"The interpretation of the Basic Law given by the NPC Standing Committee is the same as the law itself," the spokesperson added, stressing that relevant provisions in the Basic Law and its interpretation "must be implemented to the letter."
Independent judicial power cannot go beyond Basic Law
Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the NPC Standing Committee, said at a press conference that the independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, exercised by the Hong Kong SAR, is provided by the NPC Standing Committee through the Basic Law.
Independent judicial power that violates or goes beyond the Basic Law shall not be allowed, according to Li.
The purpose of the NPC Standing Committee in clarifying the implications of relevant provisions in the Basic Law by issuing an interpre