A HONG Kong court on Tuesday disqualified a pair of newly-elected separatist lawmakers from taking office after they swore and used anti-China insults while giving their oath to be sworn in.
Hong Kong’s high court ruled that Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-Ching of the Youngspiration party contravened a section of the semi-autonomous Chinese city’s constitution covering oaths taken by officials.
According to Hong Kong Free Press, Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung in his judgment said the duo had “declined” to take their oaths and should therefore be disqualified entirely from taking their seats at the legislative council.
He also reportedly said that even without Beijing’s ruling in Parliament on the matter last week, the decision would not have been different.
In South China Morning Post (SCMP), Au was quoted saying: “The court… agrees with the submissions of the chief executive and secretary of justice that, with or without the interpretation, the court would reach the same above conclusion.”
The daily said the judge also ruled that Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwang-yuen does not have the power to arrange for a second oath-taking ceremony for the pair.
With the decision, both Leung and Yau will be immediately barred from the legislature. They are also said to be discussing their next step with their lawyers and are expected to speak to the media later Tuesday evening.
“I was calmer than I expected,” Leung was quoted as saying in SCMP’s report. “I’ll soon discuss possible legal actions with my lawyers.”
Yau said she and her political comrade were fighting not for themselves but for the democratic rights of their voters.
“If the court could strip us of our qualification, we all know what kind of society we live in now,” she said.
Last week, China’s Parliament approved an interpretation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law that states lawmakers must swear their allegiance to the city as part of China.
In the decision according to Straits Times, the National People’s Congress said: “Those who declare Hong Kong independence not only have no right to run for the legislature and be a lawmaker, they should also be subject to legal responsibilities.”
Yau and Leung were among the newly-elected pro-democracy lawmakers who intentionally mangled their oaths in a show of defiance against Beijing last month.
During the swearing in ceremony on Oct 12, the left-leaning 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 foreshadowed what was already 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.
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.
However, China’s increased influence on Hong Kong politics in recent years has led to the growing localist movement which is pushing to preserve the special administrative city’s autonomy and local culture.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press