The first session of Hong Kong’s new parliament on Wednesday saw several young lawmakers diverting from the official oath, including two who refused to pledge allegiance to China and one who quoted Mahatma Gandhi to say no one could imprison his mind.
The swearing-in session at the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, a “special administrative region” of China, took on farcical overtones as one young lawmaker inserted swear words into her oath and another took eight minutes to complete the oath, pausing for several seconds between each word.
Nathan Law, the youngest lawmaker in the Legislative Council’s history after he was elected at the age of 23 last month, quoted Gandhi before taking the oath. “You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind,” he was quoted as saying by the media.
Law, a former leader of the pro-democracy Umbrella Revolution of 2014 who now heads the Demosisto party, quoted Gandhi while responding to a government warning on Tuesday that those who refused to take the oath properly could lose their seats, the South China Morning Post reported.
Pro-independence lawmaker Yau Wai-ching, 25, who belongs to the Youngspiration party that emerged from the Umbrella Revolution, held up a blue banner with the words “Hong Kong is not China”.
She deviated from the official oath, which calls on lawmakers to swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, and instead said: “I do solemnly swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Hong Kong nation.”
When Yau was instructed to repeat the oath by Legislative Council secretary general Kenneth Chen, she pronounced the “People’s Republic of China” as the “People’s Re-f***ing of Chee-na” in all three mentions of the phrase in the oath.
Yau’s Youngspiration colleague Sixtus “Baggio” Leung draped the banner with the words “Hong Kong is not China” around his shoulders, referred to the “Hong Kong nation” and promised to “protect and defend” the people of Hong Kong.
Independent lawmaker Edward Yiu added a pledge to “fight for genuine universal suffrage” to his oath. Umbrella Revolution activist Lau Siu-lai read her oath at a snail’s pace in an apparent protest, taking eight minutes to complete it.
The secretary general rejected the oaths of Yau, Sixtus Leung and Yiu, and they will have to retake them at a later date. This was challenged by Law and several pro-democracy lawmakers.
Last month, voters in Hong Kong turned out in record numbers for the first major election since the 2014 pro-democracy protests. The people chose several “localist politicians” who want greater autonomy or independence from China.
China has angrily rejected calls for Hong Kong’s independence, and some officials have warned “separatists” will be prosecuted.