Hong Kong court disqualifies 4 lawmakers over oath taking

Political reform supporters stand outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's high court on Friday expelled four opposition lawmakers from the city's legislature after it invalidated their oaths of office, a ruling that undermines the influence of the opposition in favor of pro-China legislators.

Prior to November's developments, Beijing intervened in Hong Kong's domestic policies and issued an amendment to Hong Kong Basic Law providing that legislators who deliver their oaths in an insincere or undignified manner must be removed from office.

At the time of Hong Kong's handover to Beijing in 1997, London had sought to build in some elements of democratic rule, including a partially-elected legislature and the eventual open election of the territory's leader.

Concerns China is squeezing Hong Kong have sparked calls by some activists for self-determination or even independence for the city, angering Beijing.

The 24-year-old was one of the most popular candidates to win a seat, gaining 50,000 votes. China promised Hong Kong autonomy from the mainland, but there are signs of increased involvement by Beijing in Hong Kong affairs.

At the rally Friday night, banned lawmaker Edward Yiu described it as "the darkest day in Hong Kong politics".

He warned that the "One Country, Two Systems" governing arrangement could be adversely affected, as the Beijing and Hong Kong governments can do whatever they want now.

"Everyone in their speeches said although it feels hopeless, we need to persist... but they can't seem to say how it's possible to stop these things from happening again", said Wong.

Their disqualification shifts the balance of power in the Legislative Council away from the pro-democracy camp.

Activist and Hong Kong's youngest-ever legislator Nathan Law started off his oath by saying it was only a political tool.

Leung had held aloft a yellow umbrella, a symbol of the 2014 pro-democracy protests.

Lau Siu-lai took her oath in slow motion, reading one word every six seconds with the whole thing taking almost 10 minutes.

Law was disqualified for adding words to his oath and adopting a tone of voice that "expressed a doubt on or disrespect of the status of the PRC as a legitimate sovereign of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region", the court said in a summary of its ruling, referring to the People's Republic of China. Both had declined to take their oath and also displayed banners that read "Hong Kong Is Not China".

Edward Yiu added lines to his oath, saying he would "fight for general universal suffrage", which rendered his pledge invalid according to the judgement.

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