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Hong Kong lawmakers lose legal fight over oaths, vow appeal

Associated Press Associated Press 15/11/2016 By KELVIN CHAN, Associated Press
Newly elected Hong Kong lawmaker Yau Wai-ching leaves the high court in Hong Kong Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. Two newly elected Hong Kong separatist lawmakers who used anti-China insults when being sworn in were disqualified from taking office in a court decision Tuesday. A Hong Kong High Court judge ruled that Sixtus Leung and Yau of the Youngspiration party violated a section of the semiautonomous Chinese city's constitution, the Basic Law, as well as laws covering oaths taken by officials. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) © The Associated Press Newly elected Hong Kong lawmaker Yau Wai-ching leaves the high court in Hong Kong Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. Two newly elected Hong Kong separatist lawmakers who used anti-China insults when being sworn in were disqualified from taking office in a court decision Tuesday. A Hong Kong High Court judge ruled that Sixtus Leung and Yau of the Youngspiration party violated a section of the semiautonomous Chinese city's constitution, the Basic Law, as well as laws covering oaths taken by officials. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG — Two Hong Kong separatist lawmakers who were disqualified Tuesday by a judge from taking office because they altered their oaths by adding anti-China insults said they will file an appeal with the city's top court.

A High Court judge ruled that Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching of the Youngspiration party violated a section of the semiautonomous Chinese city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, as well as laws covering oaths taken by officials.

Justice Thomas Au said his decision wasn't influenced by Beijing's controversial intervention last week into the local political dispute, in which it pre-empted the court with its own ruling aimed at blocking the two from getting a second chance.

The judge sided with Hong Kong's top leader and justice secretary, who had filed a legal challenge to prevent the two from taking their seats, arguing that they had effectively declined to take their oaths by distorting them at the swearing-in ceremony last month.

Provocative tactics by Leung, 30, and Yau, 25, also included displaying a flag that said "Hong Kong is Not China" and using an old-fashioned derogatory Japanese term for China. Yau inserted a curse word into her pledge while Leung crossed his fingers.

"By seeking to make a mockery of China and the People's Republic of China in a derogatory and humiliating manner, it is objectively plain that Mr. Leung and Ms. Yau refused to pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China," the judge said.

The two told reporters that they would appeal the decision to the Court of Final Appeal rather than accepting the outcome and running for the seats again in a by-election.

"What is the meaning of joining this by-election if the result can be overruled by the government easily?" said Leung, who accused Beijing of destroying Hong Kong's values and freedoms.

In an unprecedented step, Beijing handed down its own interpretation of the Basic Law last week, circumventing Hong Kong's courts and raising fears that the city's wide autonomy and independent judiciary under Chinese rule were being undermined.

China's top legislative panel, the National People's Congress Standing Committee, sparked protests with its decision that under the Basic Law anyone who doesn't take their oath accurately, "sincerely and solemnly" should be barred from office.

While Hong Kong courts are required to enforce such rulings, Au said he would have come to the same decision with or without Beijing's interpretation.

Yau disagreed.

"The government used a lot of ways to put pressure on the court," she said. "The court made this judgment after coming under heavy pressure and the result is what we have expected."

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Associated Press videojournalist Josie Wong contributed to this report.

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