By Jeanette Tan, International News Writer
On Sunday, November 13, tens of thousands of pro-China supporters gathered on the streets of Hong Kong in support of Beijing’s decision to disqualify two pro-independence lawmakers from taking office and rallied against calls for the territory’s independence.
On October 12, two newly elected legislators sparked a bitter political row when they deliberately misread their oaths and openly insulted China during an oath-taking ceremony. According to the South China Morning Post, Youngspiration party members, Yau Wai-Ching, 25, and Sixtus Baggio Leung, 30, mimicked a derogatory term used by the Japanese during wartime and swore allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation.”
The actions of the pro-independence duo led to Beijing’s parliament invoking a power to rewrite Hong Kong’s Basic Law on November 7, ruling that any lawmaker who “takes the oath in a manner which is not sincere or not solemn” would be disqualified.
Zhang Xiaoming, director of China’s liaison office in Hong Kong, accused the duo of “blasphemy” against their oaths and said that Beijing’s actions were “appropriate.”
The rally, organized by the Anti-Hong Kong Independence Alliance, was held outside the Legco Complex in Hong Kong. Supporters waved Chinese flags in support of Beijing’s decision and chanted slogans such as “fight against Hong Kong independence, support the interpretation.”
The organizer of the rally said that as many as 40,000 people attended the demonstration, while police estimated that 28,500 people were present at the peak of the rally.
In a statement to the BBC, a spokeswoman for the Anti-Hong Kong Independence Alliance, Maggie Chan, mentioned that “so many people are very angry because the pro-independence force is a destructive force that is against the rule of law in Hong Kong.” She added that she opposed any attempt to “separate Hong Kong from our motherland.”
According to the Guardian, Hong Kong politician Michael Tien called those who promote Hong Kong’s independence “cancer cells” and said that “China will never, ever tolerate the splitting of the nation.”
An attendee of the rally, Mr. Cheung, told the South China Morning Post that he brought his son along “to let him know that Hong Kong must be governed in accordance with law”.
Another participant of the rally, Priscilla Leung, said the legislators’ behavior at the swearing-in ceremony “humiliated all of the Chinese people”.
Critics of the rally have claimed that attendees were paid to take part in the protests. However, spokeswoman Maggie Chan told the BBC that the allegations were “made with the intention to lower the alliance’s standing” and that the claims were “defamatory.”
Earlier on Tuesday, November 8, a pro-democracy march was held to oppose China’s interference with local law, alleging that Beijing was abusing its power. In an interview with the BBC, protest organizer Au Ngok-Hin said that although Yau and Leung’s actions may have been “inappropriate,” Beijing’s ruling would “deteriorate Hong Kong’s rule of law”.
Despite protests from both sides, Hong Kong’s high court effectively ruled on November 15 that the two pro-independence activists are barred from taking office in parliament.
Yau told The Guardian that she has no regrets over her actions and said that “this is just what China must do to maintain their dictatorship, so we don’t think it is our fault.”
After the court revealed its verdict, Leung said, “The judgment simply reflects that the elections in Hong Kong are meaningless and their result can be easily overturned by the government.” He added that “we have no regrets in taking our part in defending Hong Kong.”
Yau became the youngest woman to be elected to Hong Kong’s legislative council before the high court overturned that decision.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 22nd print edition.
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