HONG KONG (AP) — Chaotic scenes erupted at Hong Kong’s legislature Wednesday as pro-Beijing lawmakers prevented a pair of newly elected representatives advocating independence for the Chinese region from getting a second chance at taking their oaths.
Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching of the radical Youngspiration party, who last week tweaked their pledges in an act of defiance against China, were among five lawmakers set to redo their swearing-in so they can take office. They were part of a new wave of activist candidates elected last month amid a rising tide of anti-China sentiment in semiautonomous Hong kong.
However, the Beijing loyalists staged a walkout before their turn, forcing the meeting’s adjournment to next week because the 70-seat chamber lacked the 35-member quorum needed.
Speaking to reporters outside the chamber, they blasted Leung and Yau for being disrespectful and insulting China and demanded they apologize, before getting into a yelling match with veteran pro-democracy activist lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung. Leung threw slices of luncheon meat at them, a reference to their criticisms when the pro-democracy camp used similar delaying tactics.
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“We haven’t had any sense of remorse from them, so we just have to do what I believe to be a very unfortunate choice, to walk out from the scene, to disallow the swearing ceremony to go on,” said pro-Beijing lawmaker Paul Tse.
Yau said the loyalists should be the ones to apologize “because they are the ones who are betraying Hong Kongers.”
At the legislature’s opening session a week ago, the duo and two other pro-democracy lawmakers modified their oaths, which call for pledging allegiance to the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.”
Leung, 30, and Yau, 25, who took the English version of the oath, had vowed to defend the “Hong Kong nation” and mispronounced China as Shina, an archaic Japanese term for the country that’s seen as derogatory. Leung crossed his fingers while taking the oath while Yau combined “republic” with a curse word.
They were getting a second chance after the top court rejected an unprecedented legal challenge by Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed top leader and justice chief, who had filed a last-minute injunction on Tuesday evening to stop them from being allowed the do-over.
A third lawmaker, sociology lecturer Lau Siu-lai, was also prevented from retaking her oath. But two others finished before the walkout, including a pro-Beijing representative who forgot one word the first time.
Associated Press videojournalists Rafael Wober and Josie Wong contributed to this report.