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Politics

Separatist winners stopped from serving in Hong Kong legislature

HONG KONG -- The Hong Kong government appears to be plotting to prevent two election winners who are avowed separatists from serving on the Chinese territory's Legislative Council, with even the chief executive stepping into the dispute.

Those elected to the Legislative Council took the oath Oct. 12 to uphold Hong Kong's Basic Law. But Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung of the pro-independence Youngspiration party displayed banners reading "Hong Kong Is Not China" while they were sworn in. Both also replaced the word "China" with "Cheena" when reciting the oath, a term considered highly derogatory.

Legislative officials invalidated their oaths and prevented both from participating in council sessions.

Council President Andrew Leung, who is affiliated with the pro-China faction, concluded Tuesday that the oaths taken by Yau, Sixtus Leung and three other people were invalid. He offered the group a second chance to take the oath Wednesday, hoping to put the episode to rest.

But later Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying sought a high-court injunction to block the Youngspiration pair from retaking their oaths. The executive argued that the two lost the privilege of becoming lawmakers since their oaths did not comply with the law, and that the council president lacked the authority to swear them in again.

The court denied a temporary injunction, though it plans to rule on Andrew Leung's judgment no earlier than November.

On Wednesday, the mainland loyalists, who hold the majority of the legislative seats, walked out of the chamber in protest. They refuse to allow Yau and Sixtus Leung to take another oath unless they apologize for "insulting the Chinese people," creating another barrier for the pair's swearing-in.

Many think Hong Kong's government is taking a hard line against the "localists" because such declarations of independence are unacceptable to Chinese authorities. Others speculate that Leung Chun-ying is trying to prove his loyalty to Beijing, which has yet to approve his candidacy in the upcoming chief executive election in March.

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