Escalating tensions

China has blocked two pro-independence politicians from taking office in Hong Kong

Hong Kong protesters rail at China’s push to exert more control

Two pro-independence politicians were banned from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on Monday, further escalating tensions between the city’s growing independence movement and Beijing. 

The intrusion by Beijing in Hong Kong’s political and legislative affairs is seen as a worrying move by those who believe China is attempting to further erode the territory’s autonomy. 

In anticipation of Monday’s controversial ruling, there were angry protests on the streets over the weekend, which saw police injured and protesters arrested.

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, at least 13,000 people gathered in Hong Kong on Sunday to protest a decision by the Chinese government to interpret Hong Kong’s constitution — known as the Basic Law — and declare that because elected politicians Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus ‘Baggio’ Leung would not pledge allegiance to Beijing, they could not take office.

The protests became fractious when 4,000 people marched on the Chinese government’s liaison office in the city. Protesters later clashed with riot police who retaliated with pepper spray.

Sunday’s protests, reminiscent of 2014’s Umbrella Revolution, came hours before China rubber stamped the ruling on Monday, with the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) voting unanimously to pass the interpretation — the fifth such intervention by Beijing since the British handed back the sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

Yau and Leung, both members of the Youngspiration group, caused a stir when they altered the words of the pledge to include derogatory terms toward China when taking their oaths in September. 

On Monday, Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung said he would fully implement the Chinese government’s decision: “Any words or deeds that deliberately contravene [the interpretation’s] requirements, defy the prescribed oath-taking procedures, or even use the opportunity to insult the country and the Chinese people and advocate cessation, must be stopped in accordance with the law,” Leung said.

Claudia Mo, who is a member of Hong Kong’s legislative council and a founding member of the Civic Party, said in a Guardian article, that this was the beginning of the end of Hong Kong, comparing China’s rulers to George Orwell’s Big Brother: “This is a very frightening trend that shows Beijing will interpret Hong Kong laws any time it wants.”

Cover: ASSOCIATED PRESS

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