Hong Kong pro–democracy lawmakers have deliberately mangled their oaths at a swearing–in ceremony that descended into farce.
The show of defiance against Beijing came from a new crop of politicians elected last month amid swelling anti–China sentiment.
They were objecting to the oath’s requirement to pledge allegiance to the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China” and its Basic Law constitution.
Yau Wai–ching of Youngspiration displayed a banner Wednesday reading “Hong Kong is not China”.
She and her colleague Sixtus Leung swore and mispronounced “China” as “Shina” while saying their oaths. “Shina” is now a derogatory pronunciation used when the Japanese occupied the territory.
A third protestor, Edward Yiu, an independent, added lines to his oath saying he would “fight for genuine universal suffrage”.
The oaths of all three were ruled invalid.
Another incoming lawmaker, Nathan Law, one of the student leaders of the 2014 protests, quoted Mahatma Gandhi before taking his oath.
“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body – but you can never imprison my mind,” he said.
He also altered the oath, changing the tone of “China” to make it sound like a question. He then refused to return to his seat, asking why the other oaths had been rejected.
Most of the other 70 new MPs were sworn in without incident, though some staged other protests. Scuffles later broke out after the three whose oaths were invalidated were locked out of a vote for the new Legislative Council president.
It is unclear whether the lawmakers whose oaths were invalidated will be allowed to take their seats.
— Longview Global, LLC (@LongviewG) October 12, 2016
The swearing–in ceremony was the first meeting since elections last month, in which several candidates calling for either greater autonomy for Hong Kong, or for full independence, were elected.
Many had been key figures in the pro–democracy protests two years ago that caused chaos in the central city.
Youngspiration spokesman says there should be no problem with the flag used by Yau/Leung as “Hong Kong is not China” is “logical statement.”
— James Griffiths (@jgriffiths) October 12, 2016
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment on the LegCo protests. He told the BBC it was “very clear and unquestionable” that Hong Kong was a specially administered region of China and this “will not change”.
– with agencies