China steps in to bar HK reps from office
> Leung says government will implement ruling
BEIJING: China’s parliament passed a ruling yesterday that effectively bars two Hong Kong pro-independence politicians from taking office, Beijing’s most direct intervention in the territory’s legal and political system since the 1997 handover.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing ruled 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 sincere and solemn manner.
The prospect of the ruling had sparked protests in the former British colony on Sunday.
Foreign diplomats were watching closely, stressing the importance of the rule of law to the city’s international reputation.
While the controversial decision effectively bars the two pro-independence Hong Kong politicians from being sworn in, a court in the Chinese-ruled city must still rule on the case, taking Beijing’s decision into consideration.
The promotion of independence has long been taboo in Hong Kong, governed under a “one country, two systems” principle since 1997, amid fears in Beijing it could spread among other activists and challenge the central government’s rule.
“The nature of Hong Kong independence is to split the country. It seriously violates the ‘one country, two systems’ policy,” said Li Fei, chairman of the parliament’s Basic Law Committee.
“The central government is highly concerned about the grave dangers the Hong Kong independence forces bring to the country and to Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said the city’s government would fully implement China’s interpretation of the mini-constitution, although it was not immediately clear if that meant the proindependence pair were already disqualified from office.
The move came after pro-independence politicians Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio Leung, 30, pledged allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” and displayed a banner declaring “Hong Kong is not China” during a swearing-in ceremony for the city’s legislative council in October.
Simon Young, a professor at Hong Kong University’s law school, said he was still evaluating the ruling but it did seem to bar Leung and Yau from taking office.
“I do worry we are only going to see more interpretations, and attempts by the NPC to flesh out local laws, if they really want to stop the separatists,” Young told Reuters.
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. – Reuters
Demonstrators are pepper sprayed by police during a protest against what they call Beijing's interference over local politics and the rule of law on Sunday.