My oath - new generation of Hong Kong
lawmakers defies Beijing
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[October 12, 2016]
By Venus Wu
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Three newly elected
Hong Kong lawmakers were barred from the legislature on Wednesday after
using a swearing-in ceremony to raise the contentious issues of
independence and more democracy, highlighting growing defiance of
The three are among a new generation in the city, which returned to
Chinese rule in 1997, demanding greater self determination, at least six
of whom won seats in its 70-member legislature in an election last
Two of the new lawmakers pledged allegiance to a "Hong Kong nation" and
displayed a "Hong Kong is not China" banner as they took their oath.
In response to their action, the head of the city's Legislative Council
Secretariat said he had no authority to administer the oaths to Yau
Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio Leung, 30.
"As a member of the Legislative Council, I shall pay earnest efforts in
keeping guard over the interests of the Hong Kong nation," Leung said,
just before he took his oath.
He told Reuters on Tuesday that by the word "nation", he meant a body of
people, not a country.
A third legislator, surveyor Edward Yiu, added a line about fighting for
genuine universal suffrage at the end of the official statements. His
oath was also not accepted.
The oath taking is an early test of the new legislators' determination
to push independence issues in defiance of Beijing's steadfast
opposition to any such suggestion.
Hong Kong's mini-constitution, or Basic Law, drawn up when the former
British colony returned to China, does not explicitly forbid discussion
of independence and it grants freedom of expression.
But its first article states that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of
Legislators must complete the oath, swearing allegiance to the Hong Kong
Special Administration of the People's Republic of China, before they
can take up their seats or vote.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment on
what the new legislators said but reiterated Hong Kong's status as part
"Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People's Republic
of China. This is very clear and unquestionable, and will not change,"
he told a daily briefing.
Later, scuffles erupted when the three activist politicians were locked
out of a session that voted in a legislative president.
Leung shouted that staff were shutting him out illegally. Inside, guards
shielded a senior pro-establishment legislator from angry democrats,
some of whom tore up ballot papers.
Earlier, another source of controversy at the ceremony was that Yau and
Leung pronounced "China" as "Chee-na," which some legislators said
sounded like a derogatory term the Japanese used while they occupied
China during World War Two.
[to top of second column]
Pro-democracy lawmakers tear apart ballots as they boycott the
process of electing council chairman at the Legislative Council in
Hong Kong, China October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
The two said the supposed pronunciation was merely a quirk of their
accents but a pro-establishment lawmaker, Priscilla Leung, said it
was "very offensive" and "unacceptable".
Yau also appeared to utter a profanity while reading "People's
Republic of China" in English during the ceremony, but she later
The global financial hub was promised extensive freedom and a high
degree of autonomy under a "one country, two systems" principle when
the British handed it back in 1997.
But younger people have grown frustrated at stalled changes,
sparking unprecedented calls for various forms of greater autonomy,
from self-determination to independence.
Immediately after the election in September, Beijing's main office
overseeing the city, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said it
"resolutely opposed" any form of independence.
On Wednesday, some other pro-democratic lawmakers shouted slogans
and held up props, including a yellow umbrella, a symbol of 2014
pro-democracy demonstrations, but nevertheless had their oaths
Senior officials and judges have warned privately that they fear
Beijing may push legal changes on Hong Kong to effectively outlaw
discussions of independence or self determination.
But debate of the issue in the legislature might be unavoidable, a
pro-Beijing legislator said.
“We cannot disallow discussion of certain topics that are already
widely discussed in society," said Starry Lee, leader of the largest
pro-Beijing political party.
"We should not run away from relatively sensitive issues. But I do
not believe radical actions will gain support from most people.”
(Reporting By Venus Wu, additional reporting by Tara Joseph. Editing
by Greg Torode, Robert Birsel)
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