A Hong Kong court on Tuesday ruled to disqualify two pro-independence lawmakers, a week after Beijing said it would not allow the pair to be sworn into office as fears grow of the city’s liberties coming under threat.
Baggio Leung, 30, and Yau Wai-ching, 25, deliberately misread their oaths of office, inserted expletives and draped themselves with “Hong Kong is not China” flags during a swearing-in ceremony last month, prompting a judicial review into their future as legislators.
“Mr Leung and Ms Yau have been disqualified from assuming and have vacated the office of a member of the Legislative Council,” judge Thomas Au said in a written judgement.
“The oaths purportedly taken by Mr Leung and Ms Yau on October 12 2016 … are invalid and void and have no legal effect,” Au said.
The High Court’s decision was preempted by Beijing’s ruling last week, saying that any oath taker who does not follow the prescribed wording of the oath, “or takes the oath in a manner which is not sincere or not solemn”, should be disqualified.
That move was slammed by pro-democracy activists and legal experts as a massive blow to Hong Kong’s judicial independence and sparked demonstrations from both pro-Beijing and pro-independence groups.
Ahead of the court ruling, the city’s leader called for zero-tolerance against activists pushing for independence from China.
“Those who are advocating for independence and other forms of splitting from the country are a small minority but I cannot lower my guard and cannot (give them) any tolerance,” Leung Chung-ying told Xinhua Monday.
“Members of the Hong Kong independence (movement) cannot appear in the political system,” Leung said.
Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal which protects its freedoms for 50 years, but there are growing concerns those liberties are disappearing.