Beijing loyalists blocked Hong Kong’s pro-independence lawmakers from taking their oaths by walking out

After winning a spot in Hong Kong’s legislature via election last month, two young, pro-independence lawmakers have been blocked from assuming their new roles.

Pro-Beijing legislators walked out of the Legislative Council (LegCo) chamber this morning (Oct. 19) to block Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung, members of the Youngspiration political party from swearing in a second time. Their first attempts last week, which contained a racial slur against China used by Japan early last century, were nullified by LegCo’s president. The two, along with three others who had their oaths also nullified—one read her oath at an ultra-slow speed as a show of defiance, for example—were due to re-take them today.

The LegCo drama signals a tumultuous year ahead in Hong Kong politics amid increasing polarisation in the legislature, even as the city prepares for a new leader in 2017. Beijing has warned that it will not tolerate pro-independence talk in Hong Kong, and the city’s government has taken a hard line on it, pressuring schools to quash discussion of the topic among students.

The walk-out comes after the Hong Kong government abruptly filed a judicial review application last night (Oct. 18) to prevent Yau and Leung from swearing in a second time. In a late night hearing, the High Court ruled that Leung and Yau would be allowed to re-take their oaths. But the court allowed the government to proceed with its judicial review application, with a hearing set for Nov. 3.

Before Yau and Leung could take their oaths again, pro-Beijing lawmakers, who make up a majority in the legislature, walked out. Their absence meant that quorum was not met and the session had to be adjourned.

Pro-Beijing lawmakers are demanding an apology from Yau and Leung for insulting the feelings of Chinese people, but the two have said they will not apologize.

Outside the LegCo building, there were chaotic scenes as hundreds of Beijing supporters protested against Yau and Leung, calling them “traitors” and comparing them to Japanese imperialists.

Opposition lawmakers jointly condemned the walk-out, and said it was an attempt to undermine Hong Kong’s rule of law by challenging a court order to allow Yau and Leung to retake their oaths.

LegCo president Andrew Leung, himself a pro-Beijing lawmaker, defended the rights of Yau and Leung to retake their oaths, though he did not agree with their actions during the first swearing-in ceremony.

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