HONG KONG — The streets of Hong Kong have been the site of numerous protests over the years against the Chinese government’s policies toward the semiautonomous territory, whether over national security legislation or election procedures. On Wednesday, the protests moved into Hong Kong’s Legislature, as newly elected lawmakers gathered to take the oath of office.
The acts of defiance directed at Beijing, with some people calling for outright independence for Hong Kong, seemed to augur an especially stormy legislative term.
One new legislator, Sixtus Leung, known as Baggio, took his oath with a banner draped across his shoulders that read “Hong Kong is not China.” And instead of swearing allegiance to the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China,” he pledged allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation.”
Leung, 30, a founder of the political group Youngspiration who advocates independence for the former British colony, then read the official text of the oath, as required by law. Except that he replaced the word “China” with the derogatory “Shina.”
His ally from Youngspiration, Yau Wai-ching, 25, slipped what sounded like a profanity into the phrase “People’s Republic of China” when she recited her oath.
The two were among several young political activists elected to the Legislative Council last month in the first major election after the prodemocracy protests of 2014 that became known as the Umbrella Movement.
The defiance by the pair at the ceremony was a direct jab to the Chinese government, whose top representative in Hong Kong had warned of calamity if advocates of independence were permitted to take seats in the Legislature.
Theatrical protests that others staged Wednesday spoke to the grievances that have remained unresolved since the protests in 2014 and presaged more clashes to come in and outside the legislative chamber.
“I would never serve a regime that murders its own people,” said Nathan Law, a student leader of the 2014 protests. He then read the official oath in full, while giving the second character of each “China,” in Cantonese, a sharply rising intonation.
Law, 23, who founded the Demosisto party with his fellow Umbrella Movement leader Joshua Wong and ran on a platform that called for self-determination for Hong Kong, is the youngest person ever to serve in the Legislature.
The council’s clerk refused to swear in three of the body’s 70 legislators — Leung and Yau of Youngspiration and a third prodemocracy legislator, Edward Yiu, because of their deviations from the text and the banner display. They are expected to be able to take the oath again next week.