Hong Kong court rules lawmakers cannot take office

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A court in Hong Kong ruled Tuesday that two newly-elected, pro-independence lawmakers cannot take office after they insulted China during their swearing-in ceremony.

The High Court ruled the two, Sixtus Leung, 30, and Yau Wai-ching, 25, of the Youngspiration party, broke a section of the Hong Kong constitution covering oaths taken by officials, the Associated Press reported.

The judge, Thomas Au Hing-cheung, said their actions meant they had declined to take their oaths and must be disqualified, the South China Morning Post reported.

It comes after the Beijing-based National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top legislative panel, took the unprecedented step last week of barring the two from taking office.

That move shows how the communist government wants to maintain control over the semi-autonomous city. Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets over the case.

Leung and Yau were elected to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in September, but when they took their oaths last month, they used a derogatory pronunciation of China and made disparaging gestures including displaying a flag reading “Hong Kong is not China.”

Leung and Yau represent a powerful push for freedom driven by Hong Kong’s youth. Many of the pro-independence candidates took part in the Umbrella Revolution of 2014, when young protesters took to the streets to express anger over efforts by Beijing to pre-screen candidates for office in Hong Kong.

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