HK independence lawmakers blocked from taking oath
HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s legislature again descended into chaos yesterday as pro-Beijing politicians blocked the swearing in of two new lawmakers who want a split from China, in an increasingly divided parliament. It comes as fears grow in the semi-autonomous city that Beijing is tightening its grip, fuelling an independence movement in Hong Kong. Yesterday saw rival lawmakers clash in a heated shouting match after the proBeijing camp walked out of the swearing-in session.
The walkout led to the meeting being cancelled, preventing pro-independence lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung from taking the oath that would allow them to take up their seats. In the ensuing confrontations one veteran prodemocracy legislator threw slices of luncheon meat at his opponents while another was surrounded by security after turning China and Hong Kong flags displayed on pro-Beijing lawmakers’ desks upside-down.
Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmakers chanted “Apologise!”, demanding Yau and Leung say sorry for their failure to take the oath properly at last week’s swearing-in ceremony. The pair had their oaths rejected last Wednesday after they draped themselves in “Hong Kong is not China” flags. The oath states Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China.
Both refused to pronounce China properly, and Yau was heard to replace the words “the People’s Republic of China” with “the People’s ref ***** g of Zeena”. They were given permission to retake their oaths Wednesday, but the session was abandoned after the proBeijing walkout left an insufficient number of legislators in the chamber. “If they want people to respect their oaths, they have to express regret over their behavior last week and to apologize to all Chinese around the world,” pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung told reporters.
Hundreds of pro-Beijing supporters waved Chinese flags and stamped on pictures of the two outspoken lawmakers outside the legislative council building. The pair said they wanted to complete their oaths, but would not apologize for last week’s behavior. “We are empowered by the people to enter the Legco,” Baggio Leung said.
The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under an agreement protecting its freedoms for 50 years, but there are concerns those liberties are being eroded. Leung and Yau are part of a new wave of lawmakers advocating independence and selfdetermination who won seats in the Legislative Council (Legco) — Hong Kong’s lawmaking body-in citywide polls last month. Five legislators, including the pair, had their oaths rejected at last week’s swearing in.
Of those five, one pro-Beijing lawmaker and one pro-democracy lawmaker, whose oaths were declared invalid the first time round, were allowed to retake them Wednesday morning. The Beijing camp then walked out, forcing the session to be abandoned before Yau, Leung and pro-democracy teacher Lau Siu-lai, who read her oath at a snail’s pace last week, took the stand. The chaotic scenes came after a late-night court bid Tuesday by city leader Leung Chun-ying and justice secretary Rimsky Yuen to block Yau and Baggio Leung from taking up their seats.
That went directly against a decision by the pro-Beijing president of Legco, who had already given the green light for them to have a second chance at the oath. The court refused to grant an injunction against Wednesday’s oathtaking, but gave permission for a judicial review into whether the pair should be disqualified, putting their future as lawmakers into question. In a separate case Wednesday, former pro-democracy lawmaker Raymond Wong was convicted of throwing a glass at city leader Leung Chun-ying inside the Legco in 2014. Wong, 64, was convicted of common assault and will be sentenced on Tuesday, local media reported. —AFP