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A peaceful demonstration in Hong Kong on Nov. 6 escalated into violent clashes between protesters and police, ahead of a ruling from Beijing on the fate of two lawmaker-elects who have for weeks been unable to take their oaths to officially enter the legislature because of their pro-independence views.
The current furor began after Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung, who represent the Youngspiration political party, won seats in September elections to legislative council. The two proclaimed that Hong Kong is not a part of China, and used a derogatory term to refer to the mainland during their swearing-in session in October. Weeks later, the two still have not been sworn in because the Hong Kong government has legally challenged the validity of their oaths.
After a hearing on Nov. 3, a Hong Kong court is due to rule on the government’s legal challenge—but Beijing has also said that it will step in to “interpret” the relevant clause in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s own constitution that separates it administratively and legally from mainland China.
Sunday’s protests were called to voice discontent against what many in Hong Kong view as unnecessary interference by Beijing in the city’s legal affairs, and an attempt to undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence. Thousands turned out during the day to march to Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal, but many pushed forward or convened afterward at the Liaison Office, Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong.
In some of the most violent scenes since January’s so-called “Fishball Revolution,” police used pepper spray against protesters wearing goggles and facemasks and carrying umbrellas—the latter a symbol of protests in Hong Kong in 2014. The protesters, including many young people wearing masks and hoods, managed to occupy parts of main roads around the Liaison Office and attempted to hold their gains, but were ultimately chased away by riot police. The protesters finally dispersed at around 2am local time Monday.