HONG KONG • Dozens of pro-Beijing lawmakers walked out of the Hong Kong legislature yesterday to prevent the swearing-in of two pro-independence activists.
This took place after the Hong Kong government failed in an unprecedented legal attempt late on Tuesday to block Mr Baggio Leung, 30, and Ms Yau Wai Ching, 25, from taking up their parliamentary seats.
The court refused to grant an injunction against the oath-taking, but gave permission for a judicial review into whether the pair should be disqualified, putting their future as lawmakers into question.
Mr Leung and Ms Yau, both from localist party Youngspiration, are now due to retake their oaths next week, reported South China Morning Post. But it remains to be seen whether the pro-establishment camp will stage another walkout, leaving an insufficient number of legislators in the chamber.
Senior pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip yesterday said she generally disapproved of walkouts, but the legislators had no option after the pair refused to apologise for "insulting our motherland".
AN ISSUE OF LOYALTY
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.
SENIOR PRO-ESTABLISHMENT LAWMAKER REGINA IP, on the walkout.
They are duly elected... and I have a constitutional duty to safeguard their rights to fulfil their duties as Legislative Council members.
NEW LEGISLATIVE PRESIDENT ANDREW LEUNG, a pro-establishment figure, on his defiance of government efforts to ban the two lawmakers.
"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 and Mr Leung sparked outrage from Hong Kong's pro-Beijing establishment when their first oaths were rejected by legislative officials last week. They had pledged allegiance to the "Hong Kong nation" and displayed a banner declaring that "Hong Kong is not China".
They are part of a new generation of Hong Kong activists determined to force issues of self-determination and independence onto the mainstream political agenda.
Several of them were voted into the Legislative Council (Legco) in citywide polls last month.
Ms Yau said yesterday it was the pro-establishment camp that needed to apologise, as they were "the ones who really betrayed the Hong Kong people".
New legislative president Andrew Leung, himself a pro-establishment figure, stood by his defiance of government efforts to ban Ms Yau and Mr Baggio Leung. "They are duly elected... and I have a constitutional duty to safeguard their rights to fulfil their duties as Legislative Council members," he said.
He added that lawmakers' utmost duty was to attend meetings and he would meet all his colleagues to resolve the matter, reported the Post.
He said he would not comment on the judicial review sought by the administration, saying he would only "concentrate on Legco matters".
Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying drew criticism when he launched the late-night court bid against Mr Baggio Leung and Ms Yau.
Some senior judges and government officials privately fear the judicial review could force Beijing to invoke rarely used powers to re-interpret Hong Kong's mini-Constitution, or push through new laws.
Hong Kong's Secretary of Justice, Mr Rimsky Yuen, said his government launched its challenge without direction from Beijing and it would not seek any interpretation from the National People's Congress. "We have confidence that the issue can be resolved in the Hong Kong system."
But Mrs Ip said it was a "high-risk" legal action that the government may not completely win. "The Chief Executive's action was an... extreme measure to deal with what clearly (he) considers an extreme situation."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE