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Why It Matters

Hong Kong oath crisis far from over

Beijing's interpretation of Hong Kong's Basic Law, its mini-Constitution, has increased tensions in the city instead of settling the oath-taking crisis of the new Legislative Council.

Two massive protests took place within a week of the ruling on the clause governing swearing-in oaths of legislators that effectively barred two new, pro-independence lawmakers from taking office.

On Sunday, more than 40,000 people rallied outside the Legislative Council building in support of Beijing's ruling. Protesters, some of whom came from the mainland, chanted slogans against Hong Kong's independence.

Last week, scuffles broke out between police and protesters after more than 13,000 took to the streets to protest against the ruling that many in the city see as Beijing's intervention in its politics.

The crisis began when Mr Sixtus Leung, 30, and Ms Yau Wai Ching, 25, who were elected in the Sept 4 legislative polls, took their oaths but changed the words to pledge allegiance to the "Hong Kong nation" and pronounced China as "Cheena", deemed derogatory to the mainland.

Their oaths were invalidated and their ability to retake them was challenged by the government in a judicial review, with the court yet to rule on it. Then came the interpretation that effectively disqualifies the pair and disallows their retaking of the oath.

The decision, meant to nip Hong Kong's separatist movement in the bud, has proved divisive, as seen in the protests. And Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying's pronouncement last week that it is timely to enact an anti-subversion law could stir up further tensions. An earlier attempt to do so was scuttled after 500,000 took to the streets in 2003, and similar protests can be expected this time.

More immediately, analysts are warning of more unrest as a judgment on the judicial review is expected to be handed down today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'HK oath crisis far from over'. Print Edition | Subscribe