Activist Baggio Leung stands beside a monitor showing a nearly empty chamber after pro-Beijing lawmakers staged a walk-out to stall his swearing-in at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong. Photo: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Two pro-independence Hong Kong lawmakers were denied the chance to swear themselves into office on Wednesday after their pro-Beijing peers walked out of the chamber in protest at the duo’s anti-China sentiment.

A week before, Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-Ching, from the pro-independence group Youngspiration, had displayed a flag stating “Hong Kong is not China” and pledged loyalty to the “Hong Kong nation” as they took their oaths at the opening session of the new Legislative Council. Their oaths were rejected by the chamber’s Secretary-general, Kenneth Chen.

The two “localist” politicians were scheduled to retake the oath after receiving approval from the president of the legislature, despite a last minute judicial challenge filed by the government on Tuesday night. A hearing on the subject was set for November 3; however, the majority pro-Beijing lawmakers found their way to block their anti-China peers from taking the oath in the interim — by walking out of the Chamber.

The Beijing loyalists claimed that localists’ use of “Cheena’, as a stand-in for “China”, in their last attempt had hurt the feelings of Chinese worldwide, because of the derogatory origins of the term can be traced back to the Sino-Japanese War. “We cannot tolerate their action, which insults Chinese,” said Starry Lee, chairwoman of the largest pro-Beijing political party Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

Pro-democracy politicians claimed that walkout did the work of the Central government. Such a move, they said, would prevent the two popularly elected localists from fulfilling their duties, following Beijing’s condemnation last week.

The local news website HK01 has reported that Beijing may interpret Hong Kong’s Basic Law — the city’s so-called mini-constitution — to ensure lawmakers who advocate for Hong Kong independence are barred from the legislature.  

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