Pro-China Hong Kong lawmakers stage walkout to halt swearing-in of pro-independence activists

Pro-Beijing legislators walk out of the main chambers in protest against the second swearing-in of pro-independence lawmakers at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong.
Pro-Beijing legislators walk out of the main chambers in protest against the second swearing-in of pro-independence lawmakers at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong.PHOTO: AFP
Newly elected lawmaker Baggio Leung wears a flag reading "Hong Kong is not China" as he takes the Legislative Council Oath at the first meeting of the Sixth Legislative Council (Legco) in Hong Kong on Oct 12, 2016.
Newly elected lawmaker Baggio Leung wears a flag reading "Hong Kong is not China" as he takes the Legislative Council Oath at the first meeting of the Sixth Legislative Council (Legco) in Hong Kong on Oct 12, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Dozens of pro-Beijing lawmakers staged a walkout from the Hong Kong legislature on Wednesday (Oct 19) to stall the swearing in of two pro-independence lawmakers in the Chinese-ruled city.

The government failed in an unprecedented legal attempt on Tuesday to halt the swearing-in of the two.

The lawmakers marched out of the legislative chamber, leaving Chinese and Hong Kong flags in their place, to deprive it of a quorum. It is unclear when the swearing-in will take place.

Senior pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip said she generally disapproved of walkouts, but the legislators had no option after the pair refused to apologise for "insulting our motherland". "This is a very exceptional case involving a fundamental principle which involves loyalty to your country and adherence to our oath of upholding the... law," she said.

Ms Yau said it was the pro-establishment camp that needed to apologise as they were "the ones who really betrayed the Hong Kong people".

The government will formally challenge the decision of legislative authorities to allow Mr Baggio Leung, 30, and Ms Yau Wai-ching, 25, to retake their oaths in the High Court next month.

Ms Yau and Mr Leung sparked outrage from Hong Kong's pro-Beijing establishment when their first oaths were rejected by legislative officials last week.

Then they pledged allegiance to the "Hong Kong nation" and displayed a banner declaring that "Hong Kong is not China", using language some legislators portrayed as derogatory Japanese slang.

The topic of independence has long been taboo in the former British colony, now governed under the "one country, two systems" principle since its return to China in 1997.

The pair are part of a new generation of Hong Kong activists determined to force issues of self-determination and independence on to the mainstream political agenda.

Outside, hundreds of pro-Beijing protesters thronged the grounds of the legislature, some carrying placards of the pair dressed in Japanese army uniforms that denounced them as "traitors" and "dogs".

Others chanted that the pair must step down to protect China's "dignity".

The judicial review looms as a unprecedented constitutional battle in the free-wheeling global financial hub, testing its rule of law and the separation of powers between the government and legislative branch.

Some senior judges and government officials fear privately the issue could force Beijing to invoke rarely used to powers to reinterpret Hong Kong's mini-Constitution, or push through new laws.