A Hong Kong court has ruled that two pro-independence Hong Kong lawmakers be removed from the legislature, in line with a controversial Beijing ruling last week that effectively disqualifies the duo.
Hong Kong's High Court yesterday ruled that Mr Sixtus Leung Chung Hang, 30, and Ms Yau Wai Ching, 25, had declined to take their Legislative Council (Legco) swearing-in oaths and should thus be disqualified from the legislature.
The court also barred the duo from acting as legislators, and ruled that Legco president Andrew Leung has no power to re-administer any new oath for the pair.
High Court judge Thomas Au Hing Cheung said the judgment was made independent of Beijing's interpretation of Hong Kong's Basic Law, or mini-Constitution.
"By seeking to make a mockery of China... in a derogatory and humiliating manner, it is objectively plain that Mr Leung and Ms Yau refused to pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as an inalienable part of (China)," he said.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, who had taken the pair to court last month and challenged Legco president Andrew Leung's decision to allow them to retake their oaths, welcomed the court's decision.
The two lawmakers said they will appeal against the judgment today and apply to stop the judgment from being carried out.
Mr Sixtus Leung told reporters last night that both of them have considered their options and are aware that they could "lose everything" and risk becoming bankrupt but they want to "fight till the end".
"Regardless of the result, we have no regrets," he said.
The society is divided and the support for the two ex-legislators is not strong enough to stir up a riot in Hong Kong.
POLITICAL ANALYST JOHNNY LAU
In their swearing-in oaths last month, he and Ms Yau had used words insulting to China and displayed a banner that read "Hong Kong Is Not China".
The pair from the Youngspiration party were elected in the September legislative elections, which sent as many as seven localist candidates into the legislature.
Last week, the National People's Congress said in a document detailing its interpretation of the Basic Law that "those who declare Hong Kong independence not only have no right to run for the legislature and be a lawmaker, they should also be subject to legal responsibilities".
The interpretation was seen by many Hong Kongers as political intervention by Beijing and led to large street protests in Hong Kong last week.
Mr Andrew Leung, who was named the third defendant in the court case, said yesterday that he respected the judgment and the Legco Secretariat would take appropriate follow-up actions.
There are concerns now that more pro-democracy lawmakers could be removed from the Legco due to their improper oath-taking. Several pro-Beijing activists and residents have filed complaints to the court regarding the validity of the oaths of various lawmakers.
A senior official in Beijing's representative office in the city said last week that up to 15 Legco members had given insincere oaths.
Hong Kong could see greater tensions in the days to come, though there is unlikely to be a riot, political analyst Johnny Lau told The Straits Times. He said: "The society is divided and the support for the two ex-legislators is not strong enough to stir up a riot in Hong Kong."
But depending on the follow-up actions of the government and whether yesterday's verdict will affect the other pan-democrats who apparently altered their oaths, the political situation in Hong Kong could get worse, added Mr Lau.
"I cannot rule out the possibility of any violent conflict in the future. Of course Beijing can suppress it. But both sides would have to pay for the damage," he said.
With the two seats vacant, political scientist James Sung expects a by-election to be called soon.
The Sept 4 polls saw the traditional pan-democratic camp losing a few seats to the localists. The by-election will be a chance for the pan-democrats to get back those seats, said Professor Sung.