Rebel Hong Kong law­mak­ers chal­lenge China in par­lia­ment

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Hong Kong rebel law­mak­ers swore, shouted, banged drums and railed against “tyranny” yes­ter­day when they took their oaths of of­fice in the city’s par­lia­ment, as calls grow for a split from Bei­jing.

The chaotic first meet­ing of the new term of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil (Legco) came af­ter a city­wide vote last month saw vic­to­ries for sev­eral law­mak­ers ad­vo­cat­ing more au­ton­omy or even in­de­pen­dence for Hong Kong. The city is semi-au­ton­o­mous un­der a “one coun­try, two sys­tems” deal sealed when Bri­tain re­turned Hong Kong to China in 1997. The ar­range­ment pro­tects Hong Kong’s free­doms for 50 years, but there are in­creas­ing con­cerns those lib­er­ties are dis­ap­pear­ing as Bei­jing tight­ens its grip.

Law­mak­ers are re­quired to re­cite a short oath in Legco be­fore they can of­fi­cially take up their seats. That oath de­clares re­peat­edly that Hong Kong is a “special ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion” of China. The govern­ment had warned law­mak­ers in ad­vance they risked los­ing their seats if they did not take the oath prop­erly.

Im­pas­sioned speech

Nathan Law, 23, Legco’s youngest lawmaker and a for­mer pro-democ­racy protest leader, de­liv­ered an im­pas­sioned speech ahead of tak­ing the oath. “You can chain me, you can tor­ture me, you can even de­stroy this body but you can never im­prison my mind,” he said, quot­ing In­dia’s in­de­pen­dence leader Ma­hatma Gandhi.

Law, who is call­ing for self-de­ter­mi­na­tion for Hong Kong, was one of the main lead­ers of the 2014 Um­brella Move­ment ral­lies which brought tens of thou­sands to the streets call­ing for demo­cratic re­form. Two new pro-in­de­pen­dence law­mak­ers, Bag­gio Le­ung and Yau Wai-ching, added their own words be­fore the oath, pledg­ing to serve the “Hong Kong na­tion”.

Both dis­played flags em­bla­zoned with the words: “Hong Kong is not China”. Le­ung took the full oath in English but re­fused to pro­nounce “China” cor­rectly, in­stead call­ing it “Cheena”.

Yau was dis­tinctly heard say­ing “the Peo­ple’s Re-fuck­ing of Zeena”, in­stead of “the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China” in her oath, although she de­nied that later, blam­ing her accent. Lo­cal me­dia re­ported that they had used the word “Shina” in­stead of China, an ar­chaic, deroga­tory Ja­panese term for the main­land.

Risk to seats

New lawmaker Ed­die Chu, who ad­vo­cates a pub­lic ref­er­en­dum on Hong Kong’s fu­ture sovereignty, shouted “Demo­cratic self-de­ter­mi­na­tion! Tyranny will per­ish!” af­ter tak­ing his oath. Teacher Lau Siu-lai, also a for­mer Um­brella Move­ment ac­tivist, read ev­ery word of the oath at a snail’s pace, prompt­ing some proBei­jing law­mak­ers to walk out.

The Legco clerk told Le­ung, Yau and one other pro-democ­racy lawmaker that he was un­able to “ad­min­is­ter” their oaths, be­cause they had mod­i­fied them.

It is not yet clear whether any of the law­mak­ers deemed not to have taken the oath prop­erly will be barred from tak­ing up their seats. In a state­ment is­sued be­fore the oath­tak­ing, the govern­ment cited a law that stip­u­lates “any per­son who de­clines or ne­glects to take an oath duly re­quested which he or she is re­quired to take shall va­cate of­fice or be dis­qual­i­fied from en­ter­ing on it”.

The ses­sion was sus­pended af­ter Law re­fused to re­turn to his seat, ques­tion­ing why the clerk had ob­jected to the three law­mak­ers’ oaths. Ac­cord­ing to govern­ment rules, the clerk must now re­fer the in­valid oath cases to the Legco pres­i­dent, who was elected Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon amid fur­ther chaos. The three law­mak­ers who did not have their oaths ap­proved were told they could not vote for Legco pres­i­dent.

The vast ma­jor­ity of pro-democ­racy law­mak­ers left the cham­ber be­fore the vote, with some shout­ing and tear­ing up their bal­lots. Pro-Bei­jing leg­is­la­tor An­drew Le­ung was voted in by 38 to zero by es­tab­lish­ment law­mak­ers, who are in the ma­jor­ity in the Legco. The pro-democ­racy camp had ob­jected to his can­di­dacy. Sep­a­rately yes­ter­day, Bri­tain urged Hong Kong to pro­tect rights and free­doms in the city in its reg­u­lar six-monthly re­port. —AFP

HONG KONG: (L-R) Law­mak­ers League of So­cial Demo­crat leg­is­la­tor Le­ung Kwok-hung also known as ‘Long Hair’, Fer­nando Che­ung, Ed­die Chu, Clau­dia Mo and Nathan Law sit at the sec­re­tariat’s place de­mand­ing An­drew Le­ung, who was later voted Legco pres­i­dent, to pro­duce proof he has given up his UK pass­port, dur­ing the first meet­ing of the new term of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil (Legco) on Oc­to­ber 12, 2016. —AFP

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