Thousands of people attended a pro-Beijing rally on Sunday, voicing their support for China’s recent Basic Law interpretation that blocked two pro-independence legislators from taking office.
In the rally held near the Legco building in Admiralty, participants said they agreed with the ruling by the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee in relation to Article 104 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
The demonstrators shouted slogans against Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-ching of the localist group Youngspiration, saying the two lawmakers-elect shouldn’t be allowed to retake their oaths after they insulted China last month.
Leung and Yau were sought to be disqualified by Beijing after they displayed a cape bearing the words “Hong Kong is not China” and also used a derogatory term for China during a swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 12.
Following the controversy, their oaths were declared invalid, preventing them from taking up duties as lawmakers.
Sunday’s rally, which was organized by an entity that called itself “Anti-Independence, Support Basic Law Interpretation Alliance”, brought together as many as 53 pro-Beijing groups in the city.
The organizer claimed the turnout was more than 40,000, while the police estimated the participants numbered around 28,500 at the peak.
The rally came after NPC Standing Committee ruled last week that under the law, lawmakers-elect in Hong Kong must take their oaths sincerely and solemnly, as well as accurately.
If members fail to adhere to rules, they shouldn’t be allowed to join the Legco, it said, suggesting that Leung and Yau — as well as some other opposition lawmakers — could face disqualification.
Starry Lee, chairwoman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said the Sunday rally was aimed at sending a “No” message to those who push for Hong Kong independence.
A lawmaker-elect’s oath-taking can never be treated as a trifling matter, she said, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a lawmaker from the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, said the huge turnout at the rally is proof that many Hongkongers are opposed to independence ideology, and that they support Beijing’s interpretation of the law.
She accused some legal experts of trying to fool the public by claiming the law interpretation was detrimental to Hong Kong’s rule of law.
Brave Chan Yung, a Hong Kong deputy to NPC, told a forum Sunday that appeasing independence elements will not bring peace back to the city.
The only way to combat the problem is to wipe out such ideology, Chan said, drawing the analogy of eliminating a malignant tumor from a human body.
Some media reports, meanwhile, suggested that not all rally participants knew exactly what the real purpose of the gathering was, and that some of them may have even been “recruited” from the mainland.
Ming Pao Daily cited a participant as saying that she and some others were present just because they can receive HK$200 each as reward from the Confederacy Of Hong Kong Shanwei Clansmen Ltd.
A couple from Shekou, Shenzhen claimed that they both were paid HK$300, and that some Hong Kong locals were handed double that amount, Apple Daily reports.
Stanley Ng Chau-pei, deputy convenor of the organizing group, rejected the claims of cash inducements.
But if anyone has credible information, it should be reported to the police, he said, adding that his group will take the matter very seriously.
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