Hong Kong court bans pro-independence politicians from office

Yau Wai-ching and Baggio ‘Sixtus’ Leung banned from parliament after criticising China during swearing-in ceremony

Hong Kong’s high court has banned two young pro-independence activists from the city’s parliament, plunging the former British colony deeper into an intensifying political crisis.

One week after Beijing issued a highly unusual ruling designed to stop the newly elected politicians taking office, the court on Tuesday told Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio “Sixtus” Leung, 30, that they had been disqualified from their positions.

The judge Thomas Au Hing-cheung ruled that the pair, who launched a dramatic anti-China protest during their swearing-in ceremony last month, could no longer take up their seats since they had “manifestly refused … to solemnly, sincerely and truly bind themselves” to Hong Kong’s laws.

During that ceremony, Yau and Leung, who have both called for a complete split with mainland China, altered the text of their oaths, declaring allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation”. They also unfurled banners that said “Hong Kong is not China” and used an expletive to refer to China.

The protest enraged officials in Beijing and led Hong Kong’s chief executive to launch an unprecedented legal challenge, seeking to remove the pair from office.

Legislators must swear allegiance to “the Hong Kong special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China”, according to the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

But the judge ruled that acting “in concert and deliberately” the pair had made “a willful and deliberate attempt … to insult China” during the ceremony and had not sought to suggest otherwise.

His ruling said unchallenged evidence showed Yau and Leung had sought to promote Hong Kong’s independence from China as well as “to make a mockery of China and the People’s Republic of China in a derogatory and humiliating manner”.

Speaking outside the court after the verdict, with Yau by his side, Leung said: “The judgment simply reflects that the elections in Hong Kong are meaningless and their result can be easily overturned by the government.”

“We have no hesitation that we will go forward with an appeal,” he added, choking back tears. “We have no regrets in taking our part in defending Hong Kong.”

China bars Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians from office

Before the court’s ruling, Beijing’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, invoked a seldom-used power to rewrite Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Those wishing to hold public office must “sincerely and solemnly” declare allegiance to China, the NPC said.

The move was the most direct intervention in the city’s politics since Britain handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997, and dealt a major blow to a campaign led by the city’s younger generation for greater autonomy or outright independence.

At the time of the handover, the city was allowed to keep many freedoms and an independent judiciary under a framework known as “one country, two systems”. But many say those freedoms have been increasingly restricted in recent years, and Beijing has the final say over a wide range of political issues.

The day before Beijing released its ruling, there were violent clashes with police after more than 10,000 people marched through Hong Kong’s financial centre, protesting against Chinese interference.

Contributor

Benjamin Haas in Hong Kong

The GuardianTramp

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