The new suit brings to 10 the number of people who were elected in September to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and who may lose their seats.
HONG KONG — Eight pro-democracy lawmakers face being expelled from Hong Kong’s Legislature after a member of a taxi drivers’ association asked a court to rule that they did not make proper oaths of office, which could put them in violation of a controversial ruling made in Beijing.
The new suit brings to 10 the number of people who were elected in September to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and who may lose their seats. Two others, Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, infuriated the Chinese government when they inserted a derogatory term for China into their oaths and pledged loyalty to the “Hong Kong nation.”
Their actions prompted Beijing to announce new guidelines Monday specifying that oaths must be made “sincerely and solemnly” and be read accurately, with no chance of retaking them.
On Sunday, news of the impending ruling from Beijing set off large street protests in Hong Kong, ending with a clash between the police and protesters in which officers in riot gear used pepper spray on demonstrators. On Tuesday, after the ruling, hundreds of lawyers, concerned that China was undermining the court system, marched through the city’s central business district.
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Even though Hong Kong, a British colony until 1997, has considerable autonomy, China can issue interpretations of the territory’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, that must be taken into account by Hong Kong’s judges.
The new case, an application filed Wednesday for a so-called judicial review, concerns the Legislative Council’s decision to accept oaths from six of the eight lawmakers and to let the two others retake theirs after their first try was rejected, according to filings to the High Court.
In an interview with the local RTHK public-broadcasting service, Robin Cheng Yuk-kai, former chairman of the Taxi Drivers and Operators Association, displayed the application for the review of the eight lawmakers.
“The variations in their oath mean one thing, that they did not sincerely take the oath,” Cheng said. “If they did not sincerely swear allegiance to the country and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, how are they qualified to become Hong Kong’s legislators?”
It is unclear what interest Cheng has in the case.
Among the eight lawmakers named in the suit are Lau Siu-lai, who read her oath very slowly over more than 10 minutes, pausing after each word; Nathan Law, who gave a preamble saying he couldn’t be loyal to a regime that “murders its own people”; and Leung Kwok-hung, known as Long Hair, who unfurled a yellow umbrella, a symbol of the 2014 protests, when he gave his oath.
Hong Kong’s judicial system, inherited from the British, is well known for its independence. Judges must decide how to interpret the ruling from Beijing in each case and determine whether the ruling, which came after the oaths had already been accepted, is retroactive. Yau and Leung, in contrast, had their oaths rejected and have not been given the opportunity to retake them.