The Hong Kong legislature is set to become a lot more combative and confrontational if the recent swearing in ceremony is anything to go by. The newest lot of elected councilors were set to be officially sworn in on Wednesday, but the body descended into chaos when a number of them used it as an opportunity to make controversial statements.
Three localist and pan-democratic lawmakers had their oaths declared invalid by Legislative Council Secretariat Kenneth Chen Wei-on, as they had changed the words of the oath and displayed banners that were considered offensive and insulting to China. To nobody’s surprise, the two councilors-elect from the localist party Youngspiration, which was born from the Umbrella Movement, used the ceremony as a platform for protest. Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chun-hang, declared their true allegiance to “the Hong Kong Nation,” while laying out a banner that read “Hong Kong is not China.” On Chen’s protest, Both “Baggio” Leung and Yau re-read their oaths in English, but changed the words from “People’s Republic of China” to the “People’s Ref**king of Chee-na.” Chee-na phonetically translates to “mental retardation” in Cantonese.
Edward Yiu Chung-yim, who represents the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency, added “for democracy and for Hong Kong’s sustainable development” to his oath. He was then asked to retake the oath, which led to Yiu reading his own amended version. Chen asked Yiu to retake it again, but the lawmaker refused and walked away.
According to the body’s rules of procedure, “No Member of the Council shall attend a meeting or vote therein until he has made or subscribed an oath or affirmation in accordance with the provisions of the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance (Cap. 11).”
Nathan Law, the youngest elected representative and former student leader, quoted Gandhi prior to taking his oath saying “This sacred ceremony has become a tool for the authorities trying to suppress public opinion. You can destroy this body, but you can never imprison my mind.” He then proceeded to question Chen as to whether the three elected members were allowed to take their position in the legislative council and if he had the authority to disallow them, forcing Chen to postpone the first sitting.
Left-wing politician “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung also made a protest, approaching the podium with a yellow umbrella, the symbol of the Umbrella Revolution, and said before his oath, “I want genuine universal suffrage. Leung Chun-ying, step down.” Referring to the incumbent Chief Executive.
The pro-Beijing camp was equally confrontational, with lawmaker Ann Chiang, the scion of a Hong Kong tycoon family, taking her oath in Putonghua, the language of Mainland China, and not in Cantonese, the lingua franca of Hong Kong and the majority of her constituents. But even more controversial was the election of the new president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who is a pro-Beijing stalwart, but also curiously a British citizen. In the lead up to the vote, replacement Chairperson Abraham Razack Shek Lai-him, an ally of Andrew Leung, decided to change the meeting venue resulting in the barring of the localist councilors-elect. Sixty-five ballots were distributed but only 38 ballots were counted as many were torn up in protest before the vote was cast. Andrew Leung was voted in as the new president. As he took the Chairman’s seat, he said “I am accepting your support with a heavy heart… You have seen today what our Legislative Council has become. I hope to work for the well-being of Hong Kong in the next four years.”