A SWEARING-in ceremony to kick off Hong Kong’s legislative session descended into farce Wednesday as newly elected pro-democracy lawmakers intentionally mangled their oaths in a show of defiance against Beijing.
The lawmakers displayed flags declaring that Hong Kong is not a part of China and called out for “democratic self-determination” for the semi-autonomous Chinese city at the oath taking session.
The antics foreshadow what’s expected to be a chaotic term for Hong Kong’s legislature after a group of grassroots activists were elected in September, adding to the opposition’s numbers in the semi-democratic Legislative Council.
One lawmaker recited the oath very slowly while others mispronounced the word China. Another elected lawmaker also chanted profanities against the mainland when she was taking her oath.
Some lawmakers who tried to modify the oath were admonished by the clerk, who refused to swear in three because they changed the wording.
According to the Hong Kong Free Press, lawmaker Nathan Law, who was last to take his oath at the first meeting of the legislative term, clashed with the legislature’s secretary-general after delivering a protest speech.
“This sacred ceremony has become a tool of the authorities trying to suppress public opinion under absolute authority and regulations,” said the youngest lawmaker elected in September’s election.
Law also quoted Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, saying “You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”
Nathan Law questioned LegCo secretary general Kenneth Chen's decision to reject the oaths of 3 lawmakers
— Kris Cheng (@krislc) October 12, 2016
The incoming lawmaker said he must follow necessary procedures to be sworn in “but it doesn’t mean I will bend and bow to absolute authority.” The 23-year-old leader of the “Umbrella movement” said this in reference to China’s grip on the city.
“I will never bear allegiance to the powers that be, that kill the people. I will stand by my principles and use my conscience to defend Hong Kong.”
Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement meant to allow the region to maintain its freedoms and stay semi-autonomous until the deal’s expiration in 50 years.
Academicians had earlier predicted that the victory of six localists and their securing of nearly 20 per cent of the vote share in the Legislative Council elections in early Sept would pose a headache to Beijing.
According to the South China Morning Post, the pro-democracy candidates, including those who failed to secure seats, garnered a total 409,025 votes, making up a total of 19 per cent of about 2.2 million valid votes cast in five geographical constituencies.
Additional reporting from the Associated Press