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【梁游宣誓案】拒上訴申請 終審法院判詞全文

2017/9/1 — 11:56

法官霍兆剛、馬道立、李義

法官霍兆剛、馬道立、李義

(編按:青年新政游蕙禎及梁頌恆涉及的宣誓司法覆核案,終審法院上周拒絕兩人上訴申請。終審法院今日頒下判詞,判詞原文由英文撰寫,下為中譯本判詞全文,英文原文置於中譯本之後。梁游案原分為四宗案件,終院合併處理並統一頒發判詞。)

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香港特別行政區
終審法院

廣告

終院民事雜項案件2017年第10號

(申請上訴許可)

廣告

(原本案件編號:高院民事上訴2016年第225號、高院民事上訴2016年第226號、高院民事上訴2016年第224號、高院民事上訴2016年第227號)

第一原告人
(第一答辯人) 香港特別行政區行政長官  
第二原告人
(第二答辯人) 律政司司長  

對  

第一被告人 游蕙禎  
第二被告人
(申請人) 梁頌恆  
第三被告人 立法會主席  

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上訴委員會: 終審法院首席法官馬道立
終審法院常任法官李義
終審法院常任法官霍兆剛

聆訊及裁決日期: 2017年8月25日
裁決理由書日期: 2017年 9月1日

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裁決理由書
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上訴委員會:

引言

1.  這兩項向終審法院提出上訴許可的申請,源自兩名申請人,梁頌恆和游蕙禎(分別爲“梁”和“游”)就立法會宣誓事件所引起的法律程序。事件涉及二人在2016年9月的立法會換届選舉後所作出的立法會議員宣誓,及由他們據稱作出的宣誓所引發的後果。正如在本裁決理由書中可見,立法會主席裁定,二人的行爲並不構成符合要求的有效宣誓,並決定給予二人再次宣誓的機會。但在二人得以再次宣誓前,當時的行政長官與律政司司長展開了有關法律程序,而該等法律程序涉及的主要問題是梁游二人在此情況下是否有權再次宣誓。原訟法庭裁定,二人無權再次宣誓,並宣佈二人之宣誓無效,取消他們就職立法會議員的資格,及宣佈二人無權以該身分行事。上訴法庭維持原判,致使兩名申請人向本院提出了上訴許可申請。

2.  有關法律程序引起廣泛關注,而導致有關程序的事件亦觸發了衆多社會人士的强烈意見和評論。即使如此(而法庭在這方面並不扮演任何角色,即不會介入政治議題的辯論),上訴委員會唯一要考慮的法律議題是這兩項申請是否符合批予上訴許可的準則。根據《香港終審法院條例》,此等許可只會在終審法院認為上訴所涉及的問題具有重大廣泛的或關乎公眾的重要性,或因其他理由,以致應交由終審法院裁決,方可批予[1]。但上訴一方提出的問題具有重要性並不足夠,有關問題亦必須有合理的可爭辯之處,而其答案將會影響被上訴的判決[2]。

3.  代表申請人的一方表示,擬提出之上訴確實涉及多項問題,基於其重大廣泛的或關乎公眾的重要性,或因其他理由,以致應交由終審法院裁決。然而,本院經考慮申請人代表所作之書面及口頭陳詞後認爲,有關申請毫無疑問未能達到批予上訴許可的要求,故此申請必須被駁回。簡言之,雖然有關問題觸及的法律觀點具有廣泛及關乎公眾的重要性,但本案無合理的可爭辯之基礎令本院改變被上訴的判決。因此在聆訊結束時,本院駁回了上訴許可的申請,並表示將在適當時間提供本裁決的書面理由。現頒佈裁決理由書如下。

引致下級法庭法律程序之背景

4.  《香港特別行政區基本法》第一百零四條(《基本法》第一百零四條)訂明:

“香港特別行政區行政長官、主要官員、行政會議成員、立法會議員、各級法院法官和其他司法人員在就職時必須依法宣誓擁護中華人民共和國香港特別行政區基本法,效忠中華人民共和國香港特別行政區。”

5.  香港法例第11章《宣誓及聲明條例》(“該條例”)第16條規定,該條例所提述的誓言當中的立法會誓言(“立法會誓言”),須按附表2所列的格式作出,而有關的誓言見於附表2第IV部,内容如下:

“我謹此宣誓:本人就任中華人民共和國香港特別行政區立法會議員,定當擁護《中華人民共和國香港特別行政區基本法》,效忠中華人民共和國香港特別行政區,盡忠職守,遵守法律,廉潔奉公,為香港特別行政區服務。”

6.  重要的是,該條例第19條規定:

“立法會議員須於其任期開始後盡快作出立法會誓言,該項誓言—

(a) 如在緊接立法會全體議員普通選舉後的立法會會期首次會議上而又於選舉立法會主席之前作出,須由立法會秘書監誓;

(b) 如在立法會任何其他會議上作出,則須由立法會主席或任何代其行事的議員監誓。”

7.  再者,該條例第21條訂明不遵從的後果,條文如下:

“如任何人獲妥為邀請作出本部規定其須作出的某項誓言後,拒絕或忽略作出該項誓言——

(a) 該人若已就任,則必須離任,及

(b) 該人若未就任,則須被取消其就任資格。”

8.  梁游二人分別於2016年9月的立法會換届選舉中當選成爲立法會議員。二人獲妥為要求於2016年10月12日的立法會會議上,由立法會秘書監誓作出立法會誓言。二人未依照該條例附表2所規定的格式宣誓,而是分別對誓言作出多處重大改動,並以各種行爲配合其所採用的字眼。高等法院原訟法庭法官區慶祥在其判案書第5段對此作出如下形容:

“(1)他們分別在開始宣誓時使用‘香港國’一詞:

(a) 梁先生公開宣稱他將捍衛香港國的利益;

(b) 游小姐公開宣稱她將對香港國忠誠並效忠香港國。

(2) 立法會秘書分別對二人作出干預,並表示由於他們的宣誓不符合立法會誓言,他不能替他們監誓。

(3) 二人繼而分別再次據稱作出宣誓。

(4) 再次宣誓時,二人各自連續三次把‘China’錯讀為‘Geen-na’或‘Sheen-na’(‘支那’)。

(5) 此外,游小姐把‘People’s Republic of China’連續三次錯讀爲‘the People’s Refucking of Sheen-na’。

(6) 他們還分別故意展開及展示一張印有‘HONG KONG IS NOT CHINA’字句的藍色橫幅。

(7) 梁先生在立法會秘書干預前後分別以明顯差異的語調讀出相關字眼(梁先生在立法會秘書干預後的語調顯示一種輕蔑及不認真的態度)。他在立法會秘書初次干預後,企圖再次宣誓時,以右手的中指及食指在《聖經》上作出交叉的手勢。

(8) 游小姐高聲強調‘Hong Kong’,卻以較低沉的語調,急促地讀出其餘的誓詞。”

9.  有鑒於此,立法會主席於2016年10月18日裁定梁游二人於2016年10月12日所作之宣誓無效。不過,他決定倘若二人書面要求再次宣誓,二人可於2016年10月19日舉行的下一次立法會會議上再次宣誓。梁游二人均要求再次宣誓。然而,2016年10月18日展開的法律程序令情況發生變化。

10.  本案涉及兩宗法律程序,在下級法庭得以一併審理。在編號爲高院雜項案件2016年第2819號的程序中,行政長官及律政司司長針對梁游二人分別就任立法會議員一事,尋求宣佈性和強制性的濟助;以及在編號爲高院憲法及行政訴訟2016年第185號的程序中,行政長官及律政司司長尋求濟助,以撤銷立法會主席於2016年10月18日所作之決定,並宣佈不能再為梁游二人監誓。

常務委員會對《基本法》第一百零四條的解釋

11.  該等法律程序在原訟法庭之聆訊結束後,頒佈判決前,中華人民共和國(“中國”)全國人民代表大會常務委員會(“人大常委會”)於2016年11月7日行使了《基本法》第一百五十八條第一款[3]所賦予的權力,對《基本法》第一百零四條作出了解釋(“該解釋”)。該解釋呈述如下:

“一. 《中華人民共和國香港特別行政區基本法》第一百零四條規定的‘擁護中華人民共和國香港特別行政區基本法,效忠中華人民共和國香港特別行政區’,既是該條規定的宣誓必須包含的法定內容,也是參選或者出任該條所列公職的法定要求和條件。

二. 《中華人民共和國香港特別行政區基本法》第一百零四條規定相關公職人員‘就職時必須依法宣誓’,具有以下含義:

(一) 宣誓是該條所列公職人員就職的法定條件和必經程序。未進行合法有效宣誓或者拒絕宣誓,不得就任相應公職,不得行使相應職權和享受相應待遇。

(二) 宣誓必須符合法定的形式和內容要求。宣誓人必須真誠、莊重地進行宣誓,必須準確、完整、莊重地宣讀包括‘擁護中華人民共和國香港特別行政區基本法,效忠中華人民共和國香港特別行政區’內容的法定誓言。

(三) 宣誓人拒絕宣誓,即喪失就任該條所列相應公職的資格。宣誓人故意宣讀與法定誓言不一致的誓言或者以任何不真誠、不莊重的方式宣誓,也屬於拒絕宣誓,所作宣誓無效,宣誓人即喪失就任該條所列相應公職的資格。

(四) 宣誓必須在法律規定的監誓人面前進行。監誓人負有確保宣誓合法進行的責任,對符合本解釋和香港特別行政區法律規定的宣誓,應確定為有效宣誓;對不符合本解釋和香港特別行政區法律規定的宣誓,應確定為無效宣誓,並不得重新安排宣誓。

三. 《中華人民共和國香港特別行政區基本法》第一百零四條所規定的宣誓,是該條所列公職人員對中華人民共和國及其香港特別行政區作出的法律承諾,具有法律約束力。宣誓人必須真誠信奉並嚴格遵守法定誓言。宣誓人作虛假宣誓或者在宣誓之後從事違反誓言行為的,依法承擔法律責任。”

下級法庭的決定

12.  在原訟法庭上,梁游二人均提出多項理據就針對他們的法律程序作出抗辯,但並非所有當時提出的理據仍在本院被提出。首先,他們援引不干預原則,以辯稱法庭不應干預立法會主席有關容許二人再次宣誓的決定。第二,他們辯稱自己在宣誓過程中的行為享有豁免權,可免被起訴[4]。第三,他們辯稱,在法律上,該條例第21條不會自動使他們被取消立法會議員資格。第四,他們質疑行政長官是否有資格(locus)提起有關法律程序。區慶祥法官在2016年11月15日的判案書中拒絕接納梁游二人的所有抗辯理據,裁定行政長官和律政司司長勝訴,並按其要求批予宣佈性和強制性的濟助。

13.  原審法官雖然在不受該解釋影響下得出結論[5],但仍有考慮梁游二人關於這方面的陳詞,即:根據該解釋第二(四)段,監誓人乃裁定宣誓是否有效及是否符合《基本法》第一百零四條和該條例的最終裁決者,因此該解釋是支持不干預原則之依據;此外,按照普通法的恰當解釋,該解釋已經超越了《基本法》第一百零四條的含義,因此並不符合《基本法》第一百五十八條的規定,對法庭並沒有約束力;及該解釋實質上是對《基本法》第一百零四條作出了修改,因此並沒有追溯力。原審法官拒絕接納他們以該解釋作為支持不干預原則之依據的論點,並裁定由於即使沒有該解釋,他也會就相關爭議點作出對行政長官和律政司司長有利的結論,因此無需就其他爭論點作出裁決[6]。

14.  在向上訴法庭提出的上訴中,梁游二人基本上覆述了他們在原訟法庭所提出的論點。上訴法庭(高等法院首席法官張舉能、高等法院上訴法庭副庭長林文瀚和高等法院上訴法庭法官潘兆初)一致拒絕接納該等論點,並藉2016年11月30日的判案書[7],駁回二人的上訴。上訴法庭後來再藉2017年1月16日的判案書,駁回梁游二人向終審法院上訴的許可申請。

15.  下級法院的決定中有一重點需要強調,即區慶祥法官所作出的一項事實裁斷,梁游二人於2016年10月12日據稱作出立法會誓言時皆:

“…明顯地不接受(因此拒絕)莊重地、真誠地及從實地承諾他們會擁護《基本法》及效忠中華人民共和國香港特別行政區,又或者是,至少他們必屬故意地遺漏(因此忽略)這樣做。”[8]

上訴法庭確認此項裁斷,並裁定:

“根據䅁情,毋容爭議的是,梁游二人分別拒絕作出立法會誓言。他們沒有就此提出爭議,也無從提出爭議。針對他們2016年10月12日的言行,不可能存在任何解釋以證明他們是無心之失。他們所做的事皆是故意和有意圖的。原審法官經細心考慮所得出的這個結論,是無可抨擊的。”[9]

本案的各項申請

16.  藉2017年2月13日的申請通知書,梁(終院民事雜項案件2017年第9號及第10號)游(終院民事雜項案件2017年第7號及第8號)二人向上訴委員會重新申請上訴許可,辯稱他們擬提出之上訴所涉及的法律問題均具有重大廣泛或關乎公眾的重要性,或因其他理由,以致應交由終審法院裁決。儘管用字不盡相同,但兩位申請人各自的申請通知書上所提出的法律問題均涉及:(1) 有關不干預原則之應用範圍的議題;(2)該條例第21條的恰當解釋;及(3) 該常委會解釋的範圍和效力。此外,游也提出一個問題,該問題涉及香港法例第542章《立法會條例》某些條文的恰當解釋,而該等解釋關乎立法會議員會否因拒絕或忽略作出立法會誓言而自動喪失議員資格。

不干預原則

17.  在梁國雄 對立法會主席(第1號)案中[10],終審法院確認[11],三權力分立原則乃一項普通法法則,當中確立了立法機關與法庭的關係,其中包括一項原則,即法庭會承認,立法機關處理其事務時,享有獨有權力管理其自身的內部程序,尤其是立法程序。據此,終審法院亦確認,法庭必然不會就立法機關的內部程序是否符合常規作出干預和裁決,而會將此類事宜留給立法機關獨自作出決定:此乃不干預原則。

18.  在本案的各項申請中,梁游二人以不干預原則為依據,就針對他們的法律程序作出抗辯,並辯稱既然立法會主席已經決定應容許他們再次宣誓,法庭不可干預該決定。關於這項原則,他們就以下問題尋求上訴許可:

(1) 梁的問題(1)及(2):

“(1) 司法不干預立法會內部事務這一項憲法性原則是否適用於立法會主席容許申請人再次有機會作出立法會誓言的裁決?”

“(2) 如果問題(1)的答案是否定的話,在裁定以下事項時,監誓人和法庭各自的角色是什麼:一名立法會議員獲妥為邀請作出某項誓言後,是否如《宣誓及聲明條例》第21條規定中所指的 [已]拒絕或[已]忽略作出該項誓言;以及是否容許一名立法會議員再次有機會作出該項誓言?尤其是,法庭覆核的範圍為何?”

(2) 游的問題(2)及(3):

“(2) 立法會對如何處理自身的事務享有獨有管轄權這一原則,能否被擴展應用於立法會議員在立法會內作出《宣誓及聲明條例》條文所規定之誓言的事宜上,尤其是,立法會可否藉其內部程序和慣例管轄此類宣誓的形式。”

“(3) 有關在立法會内以讓立法會議員得以宣誓爲目的之此類宣誓,法庭是否不應該作出干預,除非是出於保障《基本法》第三十九條、第七十七條及第七十八條、《公民權利和政治權利國際公約》第二十五條及《人權法案》第二十一條所賦予已投票選出妥爲當選的立法會議員的香港永久居民經由其自由選擇之代表參與政事的憲法權利及妥爲當選的立法會議員的憲法權利,以免該等權利受到立法會主席所作出的有關此類宣誓之決定帶來的後果所影響,才作別論。”

19.  認識到不干預原則的恰當範圍很重要。在梁國雄 對 立法會主席(第1號)案中,有關情況涉及的問題是在條例草案辯論屢遭“拉布”影響之下,立法會主席已就辯論時間的長短作出裁決,法庭對此立法程序的干預是否適合。即使在此情況下,終審法院也述明:

“在這方面,重要的是須認識到不干預原則必然是受憲法規定所制約的。成文憲法的條文可以令某條法律的有效性取決於憲法所指明的任何事實、事情或情況。如果憲法規定涉及的是立法機關的某一程序,或對於某一程序的遵從,法庭便必須把此程序納入其管轄權內,以裁定有關的法律是否有效。[12]

20.  因此,在解答有關《基本法》第七十三條第一款是否規定香港法庭須行使司法管轄權,以確保立法會在其立法過程中遵守《立法會議事規則》(“《議事規則》”)的問題時,終審法院的結論是:

“……雖然《基本法》第七十三條第一款沒有規定遵從《議事規則》是使立法會制定的法律有效的必要條件,而且立法會應自行決定其自身的程序及如何應用這些程序,但法庭會行使司法管轄權來裁定立法會是否擁有某項權力、特權或豁免權。本院亦得出結論,認為法庭會行使司法管轄權來裁定立法會主席是否擁有某項權力,特權或豁免權。本院得出這個結論不僅是根據第七十三條第一款,也是根據《基本法》第七十二條及該條款賦予立法會主席的多項重要權力和職能,尤其是‘主持會議’的權力。然而,法庭不會行使司法管轄權裁定立法會或其主席應在甚麼場合或應以甚麼方式行使任何此等權力、特權或豁免權。”[13]

21.  就本案情況而言,法庭有責任就遵守《基本法》第一百零四條的憲法規定的問題作出裁決,不干預原則在此並不適用。在行使《基本法》所賦予的司法權力時,香港特別行政區的法庭有責任執行及解釋該項法律,這涉及法庭的一項責任而非酌情權:吳嘉玲及其他人 對 入境事務處處長 (1999) 2 HKCFAR 4案,第25頁H至I。基於《基本法》第一百零四條,立法會議員負有憲法責任,須宣誓擁護《基本法》及效忠香港特別行政區。這一點在《基本法》第一百零四條本身清晰可見,該解釋第二段更加强了這點。雖然《基本法》第一百零四條並沒有列明誓言的確切用字,但該條文訂立了要“依法”宣誓的責任,所依據的法律便是該條例第16條、第19條及附表2。這些條文規定了立法會議員須作出的誓言的格式。而該條例第21條亦規定,任何人若獲妥為邀請作出該項誓言後,拒絕或忽略作出該項誓言,則須面對相應的後果。

22.  在此情況下,由於《基本法》第一百零四條的憲法規定,法庭明顯有責任考慮梁游二人於2016年10月12日是否各自妥爲作出立法會誓言,以及若不是的話,後果為何,而不干預原則並不阻止法庭作出這樣的司法研訊。此外,梁游二人皆沒有辯稱該條例第16、19或21條整體上屬違憲,這一點支持了上述的結論。該解釋明文規定,作出立法會誓言是出任職位的法定要求,而拒絕宣誓者將喪失就任資格。

23.  梁的代表辯稱,由於《基本法》第一百零四條對作出立法會誓言的方式沒有特定憲法規定,故一般的不干預原則應在此適用,並應由立法會主席而非法庭決定是否容許他有第二次機會有效地作出該誓言。同樣,游的代表辯稱,作出立法會誓言的程序安排屬立法會內部程序,由《議事規則》規管,故她應否及何時重新宣誓,應屬由立法會主席決定之事。此外,游也辯稱,假如不干預原則不適用,則只有在出於保障投票選出妥為當選的立法會議員的香港永久居民的憲法權利的情況下,法庭才可對立法會主席所作的(容許她重新作出立法會誓言的)程序決定進行覆核。

24.  這些陳詞是站不住脚的,而下級法庭不接納內容相同的陳詞的做法是正確的。正如上文所解釋,《基本法》第一百零四條訂明了立法會議員必須有效地作出立法會誓言的憲法規定。當有人恰當地提出有關人等是否已作出有效宣誓的問題時,法庭便有責任對這問題進行研訊。梁游二人試圖提出的有關不干預原則的問題,皆沒有合理的可爭辯之處,也無法構成合理的可爭辯之上訴理由。

該條例第21條的恰當解釋及議員資格是否自動喪失

25.  該條例第21條是因應《基本法》第一百零四條的憲法規定而產生的法律條文,其對立法會議員拒絕或忽略作出立法會誓言的後果作出了規定。梁游兩方均沒有辯稱此條不符合法律確定性的憲法規定,或是其不構成《基本法》第一百零四條中所指的“依法”範圍內的條文。

26.  取而代之,梁游二人爭論指該條例第21條不應被解釋為規定任何拒絕或忽略作出立法會誓言的立法會議員在法律上須自動離任。他們試圖提出以下有關該條例第21條釋義的問題:

(1) 梁的問題(3)及(4):

“(3) 根據對《宣誓及聲明條例》第21(a)條的恰當解釋,離任在法律上是否自動發生,抑或是該條文就是否離任賦予酌情權及/或規定就任該職位的人必須離任?”

“(4) 考慮到《基本法》第26條下立法會議員及其界別之選民的權利,若《宣誓及聲明條例》第21(a)條或《基本法》第一百零四條禁止立法會主席給予立法會議員再次宣誓的機會,此規定是否違反相稱性的憲法規定?”

(2) 游的問題(4)及(5):

“(4) 在《宣誓及聲明條例》或《立法會議事規則》或常規中,皆沒有明文規定宣誓的行為或方式,在此情況下,裁定立法會議員是否拒絕或忽略按《宣誓及聲明條例》第21條規定作出宣誓時,是否應考慮其宣誓是否莊重,及/或考慮基於其宣誓時的說話或行為,該議員是否具備誠意作出該宣誓。”

“(5) 一經決定任何立法會議員拒絕或忽略按《宣誓及聲明條例》第21條規定作出宣誓,該議員是否‘因此舉本身’而自動喪失立法會議員資格、或自動停任立法會議員。”

27.  此外,游提出一個有關香港法例第542章《立法會條例》第73條的釋義問題(問題(6)),藉此支持她的代表所提出的有關該條例第21條釋義的論點:

“(6) 根據對《立法會條例》第73條的恰當解釋,對於議員資格的喪失,是否僅可能於《立法會條例》第15條所規定的情況下產生。”

28.  認識到有關該條例第21條之釋義問題所出現的背景是很重要的。在本案中,梁游二人已被裁定在獲要求作出立法會誓言時,明顯不接受及蓄意遺漏(即,根據第21條的用字,已拒絕及忽略)作出該誓言。有關此事實的裁斷,正如上文所述,是無法受到合理爭辯的。在此情況下,針對代表梁游二人所提出的論點,即該條例第21條無意對不慎略去立法會誓言中部分字詞、或讀錯誓言的立法會議員取消其資格,此論點根本與本案的事實無關。在該情況下,宣誓者並非拒絕或忽略作出規定的宣誓,而立法會主席要求有關議員在另一次立法會會議重新宣誓,這將屬于合法行事。另一方面,即如同本案的情況,若法庭不容置疑地裁定某位議員拒絕或忽略作出立法會誓言,立法會主席便不能行使任何酌情權或裁決了。

29.  就該條例第21條的效力所作出的上述結論,不但與根據該解釋(尤其當中第二(三)段)對《基本法》第一百零四條所作出的解釋一致,也與第21條根據其本身的文意和目的所作出的恰當解釋一致。區慶祥法官[14] 及上訴法庭[15]均得出了這個清楚的結論。對於有論點指他們對該條例第21條的解釋屬錯誤,本院認為該論點並無合理的可爭辯之處。

30.  游的論點指該條例第21條並無訂明莊重的規定,該論點既無實據,也無合理的可爭辯之處。根據其上文下理及目的,包括《基本法》第一百零四條,該條例第21條明顯隱含的規定是要以客觀上莊重的態度來作出宣誓。以下事項均可充分支持這一點:誓言本身的用字(見上文);一般有關通常的監誓方式的條文(該條例第5條);以及如有任何人反對作出宗教式宣誓,而需要以非宗教式宣誓代替宗教式宣誓,則按其明文規定要“謹以至誠,據實”作出該宣誓(該條例第7條)。無論如何,現在該解釋的第二(二)及二(三)段均有明文規定,作出立法會誓言時必須莊重,而香港特別行政區法庭受此規定的約束(如下文討論)。

31.  梁的論點是“拒絕或忽略作出誓言[者]”應解釋為倘若任何人未能作出有效宣誓,但願意在幾乎毫無拖延的情況下作出宣誓的話,則不應被視爲該條例第21條所指的“拒絕或忽略”,任何比這更寬泛的解釋都會抵觸相稱性的原則。這論點同樣是無合理的可爭辯之處,因此不能接受。本院不認爲這樣的解釋有何依據,也不認爲該條文存在任何違憲性而須對其作出狹義的解讀。根據本案的案情,梁游二人明顯不接受及蓄意遺漏作出立法會誓言,因此已拒絕及忽略作出該項誓言。有論點指在此情況下取消他們的議員資格構成了對其憲法權利不相稱的干預,該論點並無合理根據。

32.  游憑藉香港法例第542章《立法會條例》第73條提出的論點,對她並無幫助。該論點指出,由於有其他可取消立法會議員任職資格的情況及程序存在,該條例第21條的範圍及作用應被摒除在該等情況和程序之外。本院不同意這是合理的可爭辯的論點。

該解釋

33.  針對該解釋,梁游二人試圖在上訴裏提出以下問題︰

(1) 梁的問題(5)

“(5) 該解釋是否改變了與本案有關的法律結論。相關的法律議題如下:

(a) 鑑於該解釋涉及一項與一般的三權分立原則有抵觸的特殊權力,規定法庭須如何解釋某份憲法文件,本院應否對該解釋作出最狹義的解釋?

(b) 該解釋第二(四)段最後一句的“確定”是否指僅可以憑立法會主席的決定而得的確定(請看上文(1))?

(c) 該解釋是否禁止在任何情況下產生第二次宣誓的機會(哪怕無意中說錯某些字?),無論該禁止與情況如何不相稱?

(d) 如果該解釋容許在某些情況下有第二次機會,該由誰決定是否容許有這樣的第二次機會?

(e) 該解釋是否有追溯力,無論其結果會令本案產生如何不公平的情況?

(f) 該解釋是否等同在不依從《基本法》第一百五十九條所規定的程序對《基本法》作出的‘修改’,因此該解釋不是‘依據《基本法》的條文和《基本法》所規定的程序’作出的,而香港的法庭根據吳嘉玲 對 入境事務處處長案 (1999) 2 HKCFAR 4, 26A-B和吳嘉玲 對 入境事務處處長案(第二號) (1999) 2 HKCFAR 141, 142D-E闡述的原則,有責任宣佈該解釋無效?

(g) 該解釋第一、二(三)和二(四)段(或該解釋的任何部分)是否超過了解釋《基本法》第一百零四條的限度,因此不可作為對《基本法》第一百零四條的有約束力的解釋?”

(2) 游的問題(1)

“(1) 香港特區的法庭在解釋該解釋之時是否有司法管轄權處理下列任何事情:

(a) 考慮及裁定該解釋或該解釋的某部分是否並非對《基本法》某條文的解釋,而是對香港特區的立法機關制定的本地法律,即《宣誓及聲明條例》的解釋;倘若該解釋是對香港特區的立法機關制定的本地法律的解釋,則它不是根據《基本法》第一百五十八條作出的解釋;

(b) 另一方面,在該解釋是有約束力的這個前提下,香港特區是否應對《基本法》第一百零四條所述的“依法”一詞在本地作出相應法律規定,以遵從該解釋,即意味著對《宣誓及聲明條例》和立法會的《議事規則》作出符合該解釋的修改,尤其是客觀清晰地作出關於真誠和莊重的法律規定;

(c) 考慮及裁定該解釋在其效力方面是不具有追溯力的(該解釋沒有提及生效日期),而其生效日期應是該解釋公布之日,還是要求香港特區對《宣誓及聲明條例》和立法會的議事規則作出符合該解釋的修訂,而使得該法律適用與在公布該解釋之前發生的游蕙禎小姐的案件。”

34.  處理關於該解釋的問題時,必須謹記本院以前曾多次考慮過《基本法》第一百五十八條第一款的範圍、人大常委會解釋《基本法》條文的權力和該等解釋的效力,本院的有關判決包括吳嘉玲及其他人對 入境事務處處長案[16]、吳嘉玲及其他人對 入境事務處處長案(第二號)[17]、劉港榕及其他人 對 入境事務處處長案[18]、入境事務處處長 對 莊豐源案[19]和最近的Vallejos對 人事登記處處長案[20]。

35.  因此,若干具權威性的基本原則已經確立。在香港特別行政區的憲制架構裏,《基本法》是中國的全國性法律,由全國人民代表大會根據《中華人民共和國憲法》第三十一條制定[21]。人大常委會解釋《基本法》的權力來自《中華人民共和國憲法》第六十七條第四款,並以寬泛和不受制約的措詞被明文載於《基本法》第一百五十八條第一款中[22]。根據中華人民共和國的法律對《基本法》作出的解釋,是在一個有別於香港特別行政區實行的普通法體制的法律體制裏進行的解釋,此類解釋包括可以對法律作出闡明或補充的立法解釋[23]。人大常委會作出的對《基本法》的解釋對香港特別行政區的法庭是有約束力的[24]。它申明有關條文現時,及自1997年7月1日《基本法》生效起一直以來的涵義[25]。

36.  在此情況下,除非本院要重新考慮這些基本的法律原則,否則,對於梁游二人試圖提出的關於該解釋的許多問題,顯然本院已經作出過權威性的裁定。本院認為沒有理由重新考慮這些原則。梁游二人就這些原則的正確性提出質疑的論點沒有合理的可爭辯之處。簡言之,本院信納該解釋具有清晰的範圍和效力,梁游二人被取消資格是他們拒絕或忽略作出立法會誓言自動產生的結果,而在本案的有關時間,即梁游二人據稱宣誓之時,《基本法》第一百零四條的真確解釋對香港特別行政區的法庭是有約束力的。

37.  至於梁游二人試圖提出的關於該解釋和涉及《基本法》第一百零四條的真確解釋的其他問題,無論如何,鑑於下級法庭已經裁定該條例第21條的恰當解釋是甚麼(而本院認為梁游二人試圖對該等裁定提出的質疑沒有合理的可爭辯之處),及下級法庭已經作出的事實裁定亦沒有受到質疑,即使不考慮該解釋,本案的結果也會是一樣。本院認為以下兩個論點沒有合理的可爭辯之處:該解釋的作用是剝奪了法庭就某位立法會議員是否有效地作出立法會誓言這個問題作出裁定的司法管轄權,及該解釋妨礙了該條例的運用以決定拒絕或忽略作出必須的誓言有何後果。

結論

38.  代表行政長官和律政司司長的大律師,即余若海資深大律師,已經呈交了詳盡的書面陳詞以回應有關申請,所以在本院聆聽過彭力克勳爵御用大律師(代表梁)和李志喜資深大律師(代表游)的陳詞後,本院沒有邀請余資深大律師作口頭陳詞。本院信納雖然梁游二人試圖提出的某些問題有廣泛和關乎公眾的重要性,但他們針對下級法庭的判決(即宣佈他們被取消就任立法會議員的資格,和不准他們重新作出立法會誓言)提出的上訴沒有合理的可爭辯之處,也沒有合理機會令本院得出與下級法庭不同的結論。

39.  因此,本院駁回此次上訴許可申請,兼判敗訴方須付訟費予答辯人,附有延聘兩名大律師的証書。

(馬道立) (李義) (霍兆剛)
終審法院首席法官 終審法院常任法官 終審法院常任法官

御用大律師彭力克勳爵、資深大律師潘熙先生和大律師黃宇逸先生,由何謝韋律師事務所延聘,代表終院民事雜項案件2017年第9和10號的申請人

資深大律師李志喜女士和大律師譚俊傑先生,由丘煥法律師事務所延聘,代表終院民事雜項案件2017年第7和8號的申請人

資深大律師余若海先生、資深大律師莫樹聯先生、大律師馬耀添先生和大律師孫靖乾先生,由律政司延聘,代表終院民事雜項案件2017年第7-10號的答辯人

[1] 香港法例第484章《香港終審法院條例》第22(1)(b)條。

[2] Li Tak Ming v Secretary for Justice, FAMV 18/1998(1998年11月23日)案的判案書第4頁; Chan Yu Nam v The Secretary for Justice, FAMV 39/2011(2012年1月18日)案的判案書第6段。

[3] 《基本法》第一百五十八條第一款訂明:“本法的解釋權屬於全國人民代表大會常務委員會。”

[4] 按照《基本法》第七十七條,以及香港法例第382章《立法會(權力及特權)條例》第3及第4條。

[5] 原訟法庭判案書第120及第125段。

[6] 原訟法庭判案書第123至第125段。

[7] CACV 224,225,226及227/2016,日期為2016年11月30日的判案書 (“上訴法庭判案書”)。

[8] 原訟法庭判案書第46段,上訴法庭在上訴法庭判案書第41段予以確認。

[9] 上訴法庭判案書第41段,高等法院首席法官張舉能的原話。

[10] (2014) 17 HKCFAR 689。

[11] 出處同上,第28段。

[12] 出處同上,第32段(駐腳略去)。

[13] 出處同上,第43段。

[14] 原訟法庭判案書D3部第92至100段。

[15] 上訴法庭判案書第42至44段。

[16] (1999) 2 HKCFAR 4。

[17] (1999) 2 HKCFAR 141。

[18] (1999) 2 HKCFAR 300。

[19] (2001) 4 HKCFAR 211。

[20] (2013) 16 HKCFAR 45。

[21] 吳嘉玲及其他人對入境事務處處長案(1999) 2 HKCFAR 4  第13頁A-B。

[22] 劉港榕及其他人對入境事務處處長案 (1999) 2 HKCFAR 300 第323頁B-C;入境事務處處長對莊豐源案 (2001) 4 HKCFAR 211  第222頁G-H。

[23] 入境事務處處長對莊豐源案(見上文)第222頁J - 223頁A。

[24] 吳嘉玲及其他人對入境事務處處長案(第二號)(1999) 2 HKCFAR 141  第142頁D;劉港榕及其他人對入境事務處處長案(見上文)第322頁D - 324頁E(如終審法院首席法官李國能所說)及第344頁C - 346頁E(如終審法院非常任法官梅師賢爵士所說);入境事務處處長對莊豐源案(見上文)第223頁A-C。

[25] 劉港榕及其他人對入境事務處處長案(見上文)第326頁D-E及第346頁J - 347頁A。

IN THE COURT OF FINAL APPEAL OF THE

HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION

MISCELLANEOUS PROCEEDINGS NO. 10 OF 2017 (CIVIL)

(ON APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL FROM

CACV NO. 227 OF 2016)

____________________

BETWEEN

  THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE HKSAR 1st Plaintiff
(1st Respondent)
  SECRETARY FOR JUSTICE 2nd Plaintiff
(2nd Respondent)
  and
  YAU WAI CHING 1st Defendant
  SIXTUS LEUNG CHUNG HANG 2nd Defendant
(Applicant)
  PRESIDENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL 3rd Defendant

____________________

Appeal Committee : Chief Justice Ma, Mr Justice Ribeiro PJ and Mr Justice Fok PJ

Date of Hearing and Determination : 25 August 2017
Date of Reasons for Determination : 1 September 2017

__________________________________

REASONS FOR DETERMINATION

__________________________________

The Appeal Committee:

Introduction

1.  These applications for leave to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal arise out of proceedings concerning the taking of the oath of a Legislative Councillor by the two applicants, Sixtus Leung Chung Hang and Yau Wai Ching (“Leung” and “Yau” respectively), following the general election in September 2016 and the consequences of their purporting to do so.  As will be seen, it was determined by the President of the Legislative Council (“Legco”) that their actions did not constitute a valid taking of the requisite oath and he decided that they should be given a further opportunity to do so.  Before they were able to do so, however, these proceedings were commenced by the then Chief Executive and the Secretary for Justice, the material question being whether in the circumstances Leung and Yau were entitled to re-take their oaths.  The Court of First Instance concluded that they were not and made declarations as to the invalidity of their oaths and of their disqualification from assuming office as members of Legco and acting as such.  That decision was affirmed on appeal and has led to the applications now before us.

2.  These proceedings have received widespread publicity and the circumstances leading to them have provoked strong expressions of opinion and comment amongst many members of the community.  Be that as it may (and the Court’s role is not to enter into matters of political debate), the sole legal issue for the Appeal Committee on these applications has been whether the criteria for the grant of leave to appeal have been satisfied.   As provided by the Court’s Ordinance, such leave will only be granted if the Court is of the opinion that the question involved in the appeal is one which, by reason of its great general or public importance, or otherwise, ought to be submitted to the Court for decision.[1]  It is not enough that an important question is raised, though, since it must also be reasonably arguable that the answer to that question will affect the judgment under appeal.[2]

3.  It was submitted on behalf of the applicants that the proposed appeal does indeed involve various questions which, by reason of their great general or public importance, or otherwise, ought to be submitted to the Court. However, having considered the written and oral submissions advanced on behalf of the applicants, we had no doubt that the threshold for leave to appeal is not met and that, accordingly, the applications must be dismissed.  In summary, although the questions touch upon issues of law of general and public importance, there is no reasonably arguable basis for disturbing the judgments under appeal.  At the conclusion of the hearing, we therefore dismissed the applications for leave to appeal indicating that we would provide our reasons for doing so in writing in due course, which we now do.

Background leading to the proceedings below

4.  Article 104 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“BL104”) provides:

“When assuming office, the Chief Executive, principal officials, members of the Executive Council and of the Legislative Council, judges of the 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.”

5.  The Oaths and Declarations Ordinance (Cap.11) (“the Ordinance”) stipulates, in section 16, that, among other oaths, that referred to in the Ordinance as the Legislative Council Oath (“the Legco oath”) shall be in the form set out in Schedule 2 and the oath in question is at Part IV of Schedule 2 in the following terms:

“I swear that, being a member of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, I 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 and serve the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region conscientiously, dutifully, in full accordance with the law, honestly and with integrity.”

6.  Materially, section 19 of the Ordinance provides that:

“A member of the Legislative Council shall, as soon as possible after the commencement of his term of office, take the Legislative Council Oath which –

(a) if taken at the first sitting of the session of the Legislative Council immediately after a general election of all members of the Council and before the election of the President of the Council, shall be administered by the Clerk to the Council;

(b) if taken at any other sitting of the Council, shall be administered by the President of the Council or any member acting in his place.”

7.  Furthermore, section 21 of the Ordinance provides for the consequence of non-compliance in the following terms:

“Any person who declines or neglects to take an oath duly requested which he is required to take by this Part, shall –

(a) if he has already entered on his office, vacate it, and

(b) if he has not entered on his office, be disqualified from entering on it.”

8.  Leung and Yau were respectively elected to be members of Legco in the general election held in September 2016.  They were duly asked to take the Legco oath before the Clerk to Legco at its meeting on 12 October 2016. Instead of taking the Legco oath in the form stipulated in Schedule 2 to the Ordinance, each of them made a number of material alterations to it and accompanied their words by various actions, described by Au J in paragraph [5] of his judgment in the Court of First Instance as follows:

“(1) Each of them used the term ‘Hong Kong nation’ right at the outset of oath-taking:

(a) Mr Leung declared in open public that he shall keep guard over the interest of the Hong Kong nation;

(b) Ms Yau declared in open public that she will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Hong Kong nation.

(2) The Clerk interrupted each of them and said he could not administer their respective oath-taking as that was not taken in compliance with the LegCo Oath.

(3) Each of them then purported to take the oath again.

(4) In doing so, each of them mis-pronounced the word ‘China’ consecutively for three times, as ‘Geen-na’ or ‘Sheen-na’ (‘支那’).

(5) Further, Ms Yau mis-pronounced ‘People’s Republic of China’ as ‘the People’s Refucking of Sheen-na’ consecutively for three times.

(6) Each of them also intentionally unfolded and displayed a blue banner bearing the words ‘HONG KONG IS NOT CHINA’.

(7) Mr Leung adopted a contrast in the tone of his voice between his initial words before the interjection by the Clerk and his subsequent words after such interjection (which shows a dismissive and not serious attitude). He further crossed the index and middle fingers of his right hand over the Bible in seeking to take the oath again after the initial interjection by the Clerk.

(8)       Ms Yau emphasized ‘Hong Kong’ with a distinctly loud tone of voice but adopted a lower voice and hurried manner for the rest of the oath.”

9.  In the light of this, on 18 October 2016, the President decided that the oath taken by each of Leung and Yau on 12 October 2016 was invalid.  However, his decision went on to permit each to re-take their oaths at the next meeting of Legco on 19 October 2016 if they requested to do so in writing.  Leung and Yau both requested to do so.   However, events were then overtaken by these legal proceedings which were commenced on 18 October 2016.

10.  There were two sets of proceedings below which were heard together.  In HCMP 2819 of 2016, the Chief Executive and Secretary for Justice sought declaratory and injunctive relief against Leung and Yau in relation to their respectively entering on the office of Legco member; and, in HCAL 185 of 2016, the Chief Executive and Secretary for Justice sought relief to quash the President’s decision of 18 October 2016 and to declare that Leung and Yau’s oaths could not be re-administered.

The Interpretation of BL104 by the Standing Committee

11.  On 7 November 2016, after the hearing of the proceedings in the Court of First Instance but before judgment was given, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (“NPCSC”) of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) exercised its power under Article 158(1) of the Basic Law[3] to interpret BL104 (the “Interpretation”).  The Interpretation states as follows:

“1. ‘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’ as stipulated in Article 104 of the Basic Law of 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.

2. The provisions in Article 104 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China that ‘When assuming office’, the relevant public officers ‘must, in accordance with law, swear’ bear the following meaning:

(1) Oath taking is the legal prerequisite and required procedure for public officers specified in the Article to assume office. No public office shall be assumed, no corresponding powers and functions shall be exercised, and no corresponding entitlements shall be enjoyed by anyone who fails to lawfully and validly take the oath or who declines to take the oath.

(2) Oath taking must comply with the legal requirements in respect of its form and content. 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’.

(3) An oath taker is disqualified forthwith from assuming the public office specified in the Article if he or she declines to take the oath. An oath taker who intentionally reads out words which do not accord with the wording of the oath prescribed by law, or takes the oath in a manner which is not sincere or not solemn, shall be treated as declining to take the oath. The oath so taken is invalid and the oath taker is disqualified forthwith from assuming the public office specified in the Article.

(4) The oath must be taken before the 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. He or she shall determine that an oath taken in compliance with this Interpretation and the requirements under the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is valid, and that an oath which is not taken in compliance with this Interpretation and the requirements under the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is invalid. If the oath taken is determined as invalid, no arrangement shall be made for retaking the oath.

3. The taking of the oath stipulated by Article 104 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China is a legal pledge made by the public officers specified in the Article to the People’s Republic of China and its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and is legally binding. 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.”

The decisions below

12.  In the Court of First Instance, Leung and Yau opposed the proceedings against them on a number of grounds, not all of which are sought to be pursued in this Court.  First, they invoked the non-intervention principle to argue that the court should not intervene in respect of the President of Legco’s decision that they be allowed to re-take their oaths.  Second, they argued that their conduct in the oath-taking process is immune from suit.[4] Third, they contended that section 21 of the Ordinance does not operate automatically as a matter of law to disqualify them as members of Legco.  Fourth, they contested the Chief Executive’s locus to bring these proceedings.  In his judgment dated 15 November 2016, Au J rejected each of Leung and Yau’s grounds of opposition and held in favour of the Chief Executive and Secretary for Justice, granting the declaratory and injunctive relief sought. 

13.  The Judge reached his conclusions independently of the Interpretation[5] but considered Leung and Yau’s submissions on it, which were: that under paragraph 2(4) of the Interpretation the person administering the oath is the final arbiter to determine the validity of an oath and its compliance with BL104 and the Ordinance, hence supporting reliance on the non-intervention principle; that, properly construed as a matter of common law, the Interpretation went further than the meaning of BL104 and so was not in compliance with BL158 and not binding on the court; and that the Interpretation was effectively an amendment of BL104 and so had no retrospective effect.  He rejected their reliance on the Interpretation in support of the non-intervention principle and held that it was not necessary for him to determine the other contentions in view of his conclusions on the issues in favour of the Chief Executive and Secretary for Justice without reference to the Interpretation.[6]

14.  Leung and Yau appealed to the Court of Appeal essentially repeating the arguments advanced at first instance.  The Court of Appeal (Cheung CJHC, Lam VP and Poon JA) unanimously rejected those arguments and, by their judgment dated 30 November 2016,[7] dismissed their appeals.  By a further judgment dated 16 January 2017, the Court of Appeal dismissed Leung and Yau’s applications for leave to appeal to this Court.

15.  It is important to emphasise one particular matter that arises from the decisions below, which is the finding of fact by Au J that, when they purported to take the Legco oath on 12 October 2016, Leung and Yau each:

“… manifestly refused (and thus declined) to solemnly, sincerely and truly bind themselves to uphold the BL or bear true allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Alternatively, at the least, they must have wilfully omitted (and hence neglected) to do so.”[8]

The Court of Appeal affirmed this finding, holding that:

“On the facts, there can be no dispute that both Leung and Yau have declined respectively to take the LegCo Oath. They have put forward no argument to dispute this. Nor can they. There can be no innocent explanation for what they uttered and did on 12 October 2016. What has been done was done deliberately and intentionally. This conclusion, reached by the judge after careful consideration, is unassailable.”[9]

The present applications

16.  By notices of applications dated 13 February 2017, Leung (FAMV 9 and 10 of 2017) and Yau (FAMV 7 and 8 of 2017) have renewed their applications for leave to appeal to the Appeal Committee, contending that their proposed appeals raise questions of law which, by reason of their great general or public importance, or otherwise, ought to be submitted to the Court for decision. Although not in identical terms, the questions of law sought to be raised by each of the applicants’ respective notices of application engage: (1) the issue of the applicability of the non-intervention principle, (2) the proper construction of section 21 of the Ordinance, and (3) the ambit and effect of the Interpretation.  In addition, Yau raises a question concerning the proper construction of certain provisions of the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap.542) which relates to the question of whether disqualification for declining or neglecting to take the Lego oath is automatic.

The non-intervention principle

17.  In Leung Kwok Hung v President of the Legislative Council (No.1),[10] the Court of Final Appeal acknowledged,[11] as a common law doctrine, the doctrine of the separation of powers and, within it, the established relationship between the legislature and the courts, including the principle that the courts will recognise the exclusive authority of the legislature in managing its own internal processes in the conduct of its business, in particular its legislative processes.  The Court also acknowledged, as a corollary to this, the proposition that the courts will not intervene to rule on the regularity or irregularity of the internal processes of the legislature but will leave it to determine exclusively for itself matters of this kind: this is the non-intervention principle.

18.  In these applications, Leung and Yau rely on the non-intervention principle to challenge the proceedings against them and to contend that, the President of Legco having decided that they should be allowed to re-take their oaths, it was not for the courts to interfere with that decision.  They seek leave to appeal in respect of the following questions relating to this principle:

(1) Leung’s Questions (1) and (2):

“(1) Does the constitutional principle of judicial non-intervention in the internal affairs of LegCo apply to the Ruling of the President of LegCo to allow the Applicant a further opportunity to take the LegCo Oath?”

“(2) If the answer to Question (1) is negative, what are the respective roles of the oath administrator and the Court in determining whether a LegCo member has ‘decline[d] or neglect[ed] to take an oath duly requested’ under section 21 of the ODO and in determining whether to allow the LegCo Member a further opportunity to take the Oath? In particular, what is the extent of review by the Court?”

(2) Yau’s Questions (2) and (3):

“(2) Whether the principle whereby the LegCo has exclusive control over the conduct of its own affairs extends to the matter of oath-taking by legislators within the LegCo as required by the provisions of the ODO and in particular, whether the LegCo may by its internal procedures and practice control the manner of such oath-taking.”

“(3) Whether in relation to such oath-taking within the LegCo, the purpose of which is to have the legislators sworn, the court should not intervene unless it is necessary for the protection of the constitutional rights of the Hong Kong Permanent Residents who voted for a duly elected legislator to take part in the conduct of public affairs through their freely chosen representative and of the constitutional rights of a duly elected legislator under Basic Law Articles 39, 77, 78, Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 21 of the Bill of Rights against the consequences of a decision by the President in relation to such oath-taking.”

19.  It is important to recognise the proper scope of the principle of non-intervention.  In Leung Kwok Hung v President of the Legislative Council (No.1), the context was the appropriateness of court intervention in the legislative process where the President of Legco had made a decision in relation to the length of debate on a bill which had been the subject of attempts to filibuster it.  Even in that context, the Court stated that:

“In this respect it is important to recognise that the principle of non-intervention is necessarily subject to constitutional requirements. The provisions of a written constitution may make the validity of a law depend upon any fact, event or circumstance they identify, and if one so identified is a proceeding in, or compliance with, a procedure in the legislature the courts must take it under its cognizance in order to determine whether the supposed law is a valid law.”[12]

20.  Hence, the Court concluded, in answer to the issue of whether Article 73(1) of the Basic Law mandated the exercise of jurisdiction by the Hong Kong courts to ensure compliance with the Rules of Procedure of Legco (“the Rules of Procedure”) in its legislative processes, that:

“… although art.73(1) does not make compliance with the Rules essential to the validity of the enactment of a law by LegCo and that it is for LegCo itself to determine its own procedures and how they will be applied, the courts will exercise jurisdiction to determine the existence of a power, privilege or immunity of LegCo. We also arrived at the conclusion that the courts will exercise jurisdiction to determine the existence of a power, privilege or immunity of the President of LegCo. We arrived at this conclusion in the light, not only of art.73(1), but also of the provisions of art.72 of the BL and the important powers and functions which it confers on the President, particularly the power to ‘preside over meetings’. The courts, however, will not exercise jurisdiction to determine the occasion or the manner of exercise of any such powers, privileges or immunities either by LegCo or the President.”[13]

21.  In the present context, the principle of non-intervention cannot apply in respect of the court’s duty to rule on the question of compliance with the constitutional requirements of BL104.  In the exercise of their judicial power conferred by the Basic Law, it is the duty of the courts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, as a matter of obligation and not discretion, to enforce and interpret that law: Ng Ka Ling & Others v Director of Immigration (1999) 2 HKCFAR 4 at 25H-I.  BL104 gives rise to a constitutional duty on members of Legco to take an oath to swear to uphold the Basic Law and to swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  This is clear from the terms of BL104 itself but is reinforced by paragraph 2 of the Interpretation.  Although the precise terms of the oath to be taken are not expressly set out in BL104, the provision imposes a duty to swear “in accordance with law”.  That law is the Ordinance, sections 16 and 19 and Schedule 2 of which stipulate the form of the Legco oath that members are required to take and also provides, by section 21, that certain consequences will attach to a person who declines or neglects to take that oath when duly requested to do so.

22.  In the circumstances, by reason of the constitutional requirement in BL104, the courts are plainly duty bound to consider the question of whether Leung and Yau did each duly take the Legco oath on 12 October 2016 and, if not, with what consequences, and the non-intervention principle does not preclude such judicial inquiry.  This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that it has not been contended by either Leung or Yau that any of sections 16, 19 or 21 of the Ordinance are generally unconstitutional.  Furthermore, the Interpretation provides explicitly that the taking of the Legco oath is a legal prerequisite to taking up office and that a person who declines to take the oath is disqualified from assuming office.

23.  It was contended, on behalf of Leung, that because there are no specific constitutional requirements in BL104 relating to the manner in which the Legco oath is taken, the general principle of non-intervention applies and it is for the President of Legco, and not the courts, whether to allow him a second opportunity validly to take that oath.  Similarly, on behalf of Yau, it was contended that the procedural arrangements for the taking of the Legco oath are part of the internal processes of Legco and governed by the Rules of Procedure, so that it is a matter for the President of Legco to decide if and when she should re-take her oath.  Alternatively, Yau contended that, if the non-intervention principle does not apply, the procedural decision of the President of Legco (to permit her to re-take her Legco oath) should be reviewable by the courts only where necessary for the protection of the constitutional rights of a Hong Kong permanent resident who voted for a duly elected legislator.

24.  These submissions are untenable and the same submissions in substance were rightly rejected by the courts below.  As explained above, BL104 imposes a constitutional requirement on a member of Legco validly to take the Legco oath.  The question of whether that has been done, when properly raised, is a matter into which the courts are duty bound to inquire.  None of the questions sought to be raised by Leung or Yau in respect of the non-intervention principle are reasonably arguable or give rise to a reasonably arguable ground of appeal.

The proper construction of section 21 of the Ordinance and whether disqualification is automatic

25.  Section 21 of the Ordinance is a legislative provision mandated by the constitutional requirement in BL104 and provides for the consequence where a member of Legco declines or neglects to take the Legco oath.  It has not been contended that it does not meet the constitutional requirement of legal certainty or that it does not constitute a provision “in accordance with law” within BL104.

26.  Instead, Leung and Yau argue that section 21 of the Ordinance should not be construed as requiring a member of Legco who declines or neglects to take the Legco oath to vacate his office automatically by operation of law and seek to raise the following questions relating to the interpretation of section 21 of the Ordinance:

(1) Leung’s Questions (3) and (4):

“(3) On the proper construction of section 21(a) of the ODO, is vacation of office automatic by operation of law, or does the provision confer a discretion and/or requires the office-holder to vacate the office?”

“(4) If section 21(a) of the ODO or Article 104 of the BL otherwise prohibits the President of LegCo from allowing a LegCo Member to have a further opportunity to take the Oath, would this breach the constitutional requirement of proportionality, having regard to the rights of the LegCo Member and the electors of his constituency under Article 26 of the BL?”

(2) Yau’s Questions (4) and (5):

“(4) Whether a legislator is to be adjudged as having declined or neglected to take an oath which he is required to take pursuant to section 21 of the ODO by reference to his solemnity or lack thereof, there being no express requirements in the ODO or in the Rules of Procedure or practice of the LegCo as to the conduct or manner of taking the oath and/or by reference to his sincerity or lack thereof in light of his words or conduct at the time of oath-taking.”

“(5) Whether a legislator determined to have declined or neglected to take an oath which he is required to take pursuant to section 21 of the ODO is ‘ipso facto’ automatically disqualified from being a LegCo member or automatically ceases to hold office as a LegCo member.”

27.  In addition, Yau raises a question (Question (6)) concerning the construction of section 73 of the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap.542), which is relied upon as an allied argument to those advanced on her behalf on the construction of section 21 of the Ordinance, in these terms:

“(6) Whether on the proper construction of section 73 of the LCO, the circumstances in which a person is disqualified from acting as a Member are confined to the circumstances provided for in section 15 of the LCO.”

28.  It is important to recognise that any question as to the interpretation of section 21 of the Ordinance arises, in the present cases, in the context of Leung and Yau having been found to have manifestly refused and wilfully omitted (and so, in the language of section 21, to have declined and neglected) to take the Legco oath when requested to do so.  That finding of fact, as already noted above, cannot reasonably be contested.  In the circumstances, the arguments advanced on behalf of Leung and Yau that section 21 of the Ordinance is not intended to disqualify a member of Legco who inadvertently omits some words of the Legco oath or who mistakenly reads the wrong oath are simply not engaged on the present facts.  In such a situation, the oath taker would not have declined or neglected to take the requisite oath and the President of Legco would be acting lawfully in requesting the member to re-take the Legco oath at another sitting of Legco.  On the other hand, where a member has been incontrovertibly found by a court to have declined or neglected to take the Legco oath, as in the present case, there is no discretion or judgment to be exercised by the President of Legco.

29.  Such a conclusion on the effect of section 21 of the Ordinance is consistent with BL104 as construed in light of the Interpretation (in particular paragraph 2(3) thereof) and also, independently, on the proper construction of section 21 itself in the light of its context and purpose.  This was the clear conclusion of both Au J[14] and the Court of Appeal[15] and we do not consider it to be reasonably arguable that their construction of section 21 of the Ordinance is wrong. 

30.  Yau’s argument that section 21 of the Ordinance does not impose a requirement of solemnity is without substance and not reasonably arguable. Construed in the light of its context and purpose, which include the provisions of BL104, it is plainly to be implied that the requirement to take the Legco oath is a requirement to take that oath in an objectively solemn manner.  This is amply supported by: the wording of the oath itself (see above); the provisions concerning the normal manner of administration of oaths in general (section 5 of the Ordinance); and, where a person objects to being sworn, the need for an affirmation in lieu of an oath which by its express terms is to be taken “solemnly, sincerely, and truly” (section 7 of the Ordinance).  In any event, the requirement for solemnity in the taking of the Legco oath is now also expressly stipulated in paragraphs 2(2) and 2(3) of the Interpretation which (as discussed below) is binding on the courts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

31.  Leung’s argument that the words “who declines or neglects to take an oath” should be interpreted so that a person who fails to take a valid oath, but is willing to do so with minimal delay, neither “declines or neglects” for the purposes of section 21 of the Ordinance since any broader interpretation would conflict with the principle of proportionality must similarly be rejected as not reasonably arguable since we can see no basis for such a construction and no unconstitutionality requiring the provision to be read down.  On the facts of the present case, Leung and Yau manifestly refused and wilfully omitted, and therefore declined and neglected, to take the Legco oath.  There is no reasonable basis for the argument that disqualification in these circumstances amounts to a disproportionate interference with any constitutional rights.

32.  Yau’s argument in reliance on section 73 of the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap.542) does not assist her.  We do not accept that it is reasonably arguable that the scope and effect of section 21 of the Ordinance is excluded by the existence of other circumstances and procedures by which a member of Legco can be disqualified from office.

The Interpretation

33.  In respect of the Interpretation, Leung and Yau seek to raise the following questions by way of appeal:

(1) Leung’s Question (5):

“(5) Whether the Interpretation alters the legal position in this case. The following legal issues arise:

(a) Should the Court give the narrowest possible meaning to the Interpretation given that it is an extraordinary power which conflicts with normal principles of the separation of powers by telling a Court how to interpret a constitutional document?

(b) Does ‘determined’ in the final sentence of paragraph 2(4) of the Interpretation mean only by a decision of the President of LegCo (see (1) above)?

(c) Does the Interpretation prohibit a second opportunity to take the Oath, whatever the circumstances (an inadvertent stumbling over the words?) and however disproportionate that would be?

(d) If the Interpretation does allow for a second opportunity in some circumstances, who decides whether to allow such a second opportunity?

(e) Does the Interpretation have retrospective effect, however unfair that may be in the circumstances of this case?

(f) Does the Interpretation amount to an ‘amendment’ of the BL without complying with the prescribed procedure under Article 159 of the BL, so that the Interpretation is not made ‘in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and the procedure therein’ and the courts of Hong Kong have a duty to declare it to be invalid according to the principles stated in Ng Ka Ling v Director of Immigration (1999) 2 HKCFAR 4, 26A-B and Ng Ka Ling v Director of Immigration (No.2)(1999) 2 HKCFAR 141, 142D-E?

(g) Do paragraphs 1, 2(3) and 2(4) of the Interpretation (or any part thereof) go beyond interpreting Article 104 of the BL and therefore do not amount to a binding interpretation of Article 104 of the BL?”

(2) Yau’s Question (1):

“(1) Whether the courts of the HKSAR, in interpreting the Interpretation, have the jurisdiction to do any of the following:

a. Consider and determine whether the Interpretation or parts of it is or are not an interpretation of a provision of the Basic Law but is instead an interpretation of a local law made by the Legislature of the HKSAR namely the ODO and to the extent that it is an interpretation of a local law made by the Legislature of the HKSAR, it is not made under Basic Law Article 158;

b. Alternatively, on the basis that the Interpretation is binding, whether it is for the HKSAR internally to prescribe what are the requirements of ‘in accordance with law’ as stated in Basic Law Article 104 to accord with the Interpretation which in terms mean the amendment of ODO and Rules of Procedure of the LegCo to conform to the Interpretation and in particular to make the legal requirements for sincerity and solemnity objectively clear;

c. Consider and determine whether the Interpretation which is silent as to the date of its commencement is not retrospective in its effect and the date of commencement should only start from the date of promulgation or alternatively requires the HKSAR to make conforming amendments to the ODO and the Rules of Procedure of the LegCo and the law to be applied to Ms. YAU Wai Ching’s case is as it existed prior to the Interpretation.”

34.  In approaching questions raised in respect of the Interpretation, it must be borne in mind that the Court has previously considered the scope of BL158(1), the power of the NPCSC to interpret provisions of the Basic Law and the effect of such interpretations on a number of occasions, among them in the Court’s decisions in Ng Ka Ling & Others v Director of Immigration,[16] Ng Ka Ling & Others v Director of Immigration (No.2),[17] Lau Kong Yung & Others v Director of Immigration,[18] Director of Immigration v Chong Fung Yuen[19] and, most recently, Vallejos v Commissioner of Registration.[20]

35.  Thus, certain basic propositions are authoritatively established.  Under the constitutional framework of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Basic Law is a national law of the PRC, having been enacted by the National People’s Congress pursuant to Article 31 of the Constitution of the PRC.[21] The NPCSC’s power to interpret the Basic Law derives from Article 67(4) of the Constitution of the PRC and is provided for expressly in the Basic Law itself in BL158(1) and is in general and unqualified terms.[22]  The exercise of interpretation of the Basic Law under PRC law is one conducted under a different system of law to the common law system in force in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and includes legislative interpretation which can clarify or supplement laws.[23]  An interpretation of the Basic Law issued by the NPCSC is binding on the courts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.[24]  It declares what the law is and has always been since the coming into effect of the Basic Law on 1 July 1997.[25]

36.  In these circumstances, unless this Court were to revisit these fundamental propositions of law, it is apparent that many of the questions sought to be raised by Leung and Yau as to the Interpretation have already been authoritatively determined by the Court.  In our view, there is no warrant for revisiting those propositions and Leung and Yau’s contentions questioning their correctness are not reasonably arguable.  In short, we are satisfied that the Interpretation is clear in its scope and effect, that disqualification of Leung and Yau is the automatic consequence of their declining or neglecting to take the Legco oath, and that it is binding on the courts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as regards the true construction of BL104 at the material time when Leung and Yau purported to take their oaths.

37.  In any event, in respect of the other questions sought to be raised by Leung and Yau on the Interpretation in relation to the true construction of BL104, in view of the proper construction of section 21 of the Ordinance as held by the courts below (the proposed challenges to which, we have concluded, are not reasonably arguable) and the unchallenged findings of fact of those courts, the outcome of the present case would be the same irrespective of the Interpretation.  We do not consider it to be reasonably arguable that the effect of the Interpretation is to oust the jurisdiction of the courts in respect of the question of whether a member of Legco has validly taken the Legco oath or that it precludes the application of the Ordinance to govern the consequences of declining or neglecting to take a required oath.

Conclusion

38.  In view of his full written submissions in response to the applications, we did not call on Mr Benjamin Yu SC, counsel for the Chief Executive and Secretary for Justice, after hearing Lord Pannick QC for Leung and Ms Gladys Li SC for Yau.  We were satisfied that, regardless of the general and public importance of some of the questions sought to be raised, Leung and Yau’s appeals against the decisions below, declaring them to have been disqualified from the office of Legco member and precluding their re-taking their Legco oaths, are not reasonably arguable and that there is no reasonable prospect of the Court differing from the conclusions of the courts below.

39.  In the circumstances, we dismissed the applications for leave to appeal with costs, to include a certificate for two counsel.

(Geoffrey Ma)
Chief Justice (R A V Ribeiro)
Permanent Judge (Joseph Fok)
Permanent Judge

Lord Pannick QC, Mr Hectar Pun SC and Mr Anson Wong Yu Yat, instructed by Ho Tse Wai & Partners, for the Applicant in FAMV 9 & 10/2017

Ms Gladys Li SC and Mr Jeffrey Tam, instructed by Khoo & Co., for the Applicant in FAMV 7 & 8/2017

Mr Benjamin Yu SC, Mr Johnny Mok SC, Mr Jimmy Ma and Mr Jenkin Suen, instructed by the Department of Justice, for the Respondents in FAMV 7-10/2017

[1] Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance (Cap.484), s.22(1)(b).

[2] Li Tak Ming v Secretary for Justice, FAMV 18/1998 (23 November 1998) at p.4; Chan Yu Nam v The Secretary for Justice, FAMV 39/2011 (18 January 2012) at [6].

[3] BL158(1), which provides: “The power of interpretation of this Law shall be vested in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.”

[4] Under Article 77 of the Basic Law and sections 3 and 4 of the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance (Cap.382).

[5] CFI Judgment at [120] and [125].

[6] CFI Judgment at [123]-[125].

[7] CACV 224, 225, 226 & 227/2016, Judgment dated 30 November 2016 (“CA Judgment”).

[8] CFI Judgment at [46], affirmed by the Court of Appeal in the CA Judgment at [41].

[9] CA Judgment, per Cheung CJHC, at [41].

[10] (2014) 17 HKCFAR 689.

[11] Ibid. at [28].

[12] Ibid. at [32] (footnotes omitted).

[13] Ibid. at [43].

[14] Section D3 at [92] to [100] of the CFI Judgment.

[15] CA Judgment at [42] to [44].

[16] (1999) 2 HKCFAR 4.

[17] (1999) 2 HKCFAR 141.

[18] (1999) 2 HKCFAR 300.

[19] (2001) 4 HKCFAR 211.

[20] (2013) 16 HKCFAR 45.

[21] Ng Ka Ling & Others v Director of Immigration (1999) 2 HKCFAR 4 at p.13A-B.

[22] Lau Kong Yung & Others v Director of Immigration (1999) 2 HKCFAR 300 at p.323B-C; Director of Immigration v Chong Fung Yuen (2001) 4 HKCFAR 211 at p.222G-H.

[23] Director of Immigration v Chong Fung Yuen (supra) at pp.222J-223A.

[24] Ng Ka Ling & Others v Director of Immigration (No.2) (1999) 2 HKCFAR 141 at p.142D; Lau Kong Yung & Others v Director of Immigration (supra) at pp.322D-324E (per Li CJ) and 344C-346E (per Sir Anthony Mason NPJ); Director of Immigration v Chong Fung Yuen (supra) at p.223A-C.

[25] Lau Kong Yung & Others v Director of Immigration (supra) at pp.326D-E and 346J-347A.

 

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