China bars two Hong Kong lawmakers from office

On Sunday, thousands rallied against the anticipated, Chinese government announcement. Earlier, police used pepper spray on protesters who tried to breach police lines. Four people were arrested while two officers were injured, police said.

The pro-independence activist legislators, Sixtus "Baggio" Leung, 30, and Yau Wai-ching, 25, had their oaths voided October 12 after mispronouncing the country's name and unfurling banners proclaiming "Hong Kong IS NOT China".

Li says public officials' oaths are "solemn" and that oaths that do not conform to legal requirements can not be taken again.

But critics say what Beijing has done is effectively change the law, rather than just clarify how it should be enacted.

The National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing ruled on Monday that lawmakers must swear allegiance to Hong Kong as part of China, and that candidates would be disqualified if they changed the wording of their oath of office, or if they failed to take it in a honest and solemn manner.

Leading members of China's parliament said on Saturday the pro-independence pair had damaged the territory's rule of law and posed a grave threat to China's sovereignty and security.

The ruling is expected to bar two activist lawmakers from taking office in Hong Kong.

Zhang stressed advocacy for "Hong Kong independence" in Hong Kong SAR is prohibited by the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR, which prescribes that the Hong Kong SAR is an inseparable part of the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong's mini constitution states that lawmakers must pledge their allegiance to "the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China". In such a case, Young said, they would likely be wiser in reading their oaths correctly and assuming their positions.

"Retaking the oath is out of the question once the initial oath taking process has breached the legal requirements and been ruled invalid", said Li Fei, chairman of the NPC's Basic Law Committee.

This is the furthest reach of Beijing into Hong Kong politics since the handover, but it is the fifth time it has acted to interpret the Basic Law. He also warned that promoting independence was not a matter of freedom of speech.

Hong Kong's independence movement has gathered momentum as fears grow that China is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city. "The Central Government can not sit by indifferently", they were quoted as saying.

"I hope people can see the real face of these people", he added.

The Hong Kong Bar Association said previously that such a move would "deal a severe blow" to the territory's judicial independence.

The constitutional fact is that Hong Kong has been part of China. "At best, they were childish and committed a big error by opening the door for abuse by Beijing", he said.

But the extent of sympathy for the protests this time around remains unclear. "After today, people feel one step closer toward an authoritarian society, they feel a greater degree of deprivation of a fundamental right to elect their own legislator", he said. The two still have yet to be sworn in since then because the Hong Kong government has legally challenged the validity of their oaths.

"If they go ahead and make an interpretation tomorrow, Hong Kong people will be infuriated and this will nearly certainly add to the independence movement", said Chapman Chen, before joining the march Sunday in the Wan Chai district. "And Sixtus and Yau Wai-ching are the first victims in this new legal net".

Yau and Leung are among several newly elected lawmakers advocating self-determination or independence who won seats in citywide polls in September.

Leung and Wai-ching both inserted vulgarity and anti-Chinese slurs into their oaths of office, which members of parliament rejected once already. They did not respond to media requests for comment Monday.

Beijing's interpretation of Article 104 in Hong Kong's Basic Law can replace any local court ruling, according to reports.

"The nature of Hong Kong independence is to split the country". Oath-takers must sincerely believe in and strictly comply with the statutory oath.

  • Jon Douglas