China’s top legislative body has ruled that Hong Kong people who advocate independence cannot hold public office.
The rare intervention appears to bar two pro-independence activists elected to the Legislative Council in September from retaking their oaths and could spark unrest, Bloomberg reports.
The decision on Monday by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing represented only its second unilateral interpretation of Hong Kong law since the former British colony was returned to China almost two decades ago.
The oaths taken by legislators-elect Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang, 30, and Yau Wai-ching, 25, on Oct. 12 were declared invalid after they were said to have insulted China by mispronouncing the word “China” and unfurling banners proclaiming “Hong Kong is not China”.
The NPC unanimously adopted its interpretation of the section of Hong Kong’s Basic Law that pertains to the oaths of allegiance of public officials, Xinhua said.
The document said that oath-takers shall take legal responsibility for making false oaths or engaging in activities that violate that pledge.
“Oath-taking shall not be rearranged,” it said.
Thousands of protesters gathered on Sunday outside Hong Kong’s highest court to protest the move before holding an hours-long standoff with police outside China’s Liaison Office.
The NPC Standing Committee said on Saturday that the legal interpretation was both “timely and necessary” amid growing pro-independence activities in the city.
The intervention showed that the Communist Party decided that keeping “separatists” out of government was worth risking further criticism of its stewardship.
“The interpretation demonstrates the central government’s firm determination and will in opposing ‘Hong Kong independence,”’ China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a statement on Monday, according to Xinhua.
A Liaison Office commentary said that barring pro-independence lawmakers was in line with Hong Kong law.
Two years ago, the NPC Standing Committee issued another edict prescribing a Beijing-controlled process for electing Hong Kong’s top leader.
The ruling sparked the pro-democracy Occupy protests that shut down some city shopping streets for 79 days.
A more radical “localist” movement arose in the aftermath, with some independence advocates charged in connection with a February riot that injured dozens of police officers.
Following the Oct. 12 oath-taking incident, Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen decided to let Sixtus Leung and Yau, both representing the localist group Youngspiration, retake their oaths.
But Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying filed an application for a judicial review with the High Court to block the move.
The government insists that advocating independence violates the city’s Basic Law, which declares Hong Kong an “inalienable part” of China.
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