Pro-democracy lawmakers staged protests and altered their oaths as the new term of the Legislative Council kicked off on Wednesday.

Yau Wai-ching of Youngspiration said: “I, Yau Wai-ching, do solemnly swear that I would be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Hong Kong nation. And we will to the best [sic] protect and defend the values of Hong Kong.”

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Legislative Council Secretary Chen Wei-on told Yau to retake the oath. Yau, on the second attempt, referred to the “People’s Republic of China” as the “People’s Ref*cking of Chee-na.”

“Shina” – pronounced “chee-na” – was an archaic Japanese name for China. The meaning of the word was neutral, but it became a derogatory term for Japanese people to refer to Chinese people during the Sino-Japanese wars. Although the term was later dropped and replaced by “Chugoku,” Shina still bears an offensive meaning to most Chinese people.

Chen told Yau that Yau’s “Hong Kong is not China” flag made him “doubt that [Yau] understood the affirmation” and therefore he could not accept her oath.

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Yau’s party colleague, Baggio Leung Chun-hang, took a similar oath on his first attempt, saying that he would serve the “Hong Kong nation.”

Chen, the legislature’s secretary, told Leung to return to the seat, but the lawmaker refused. Leung then donned a flag that read: “Hong Kong is not China” as he retook the oath.

On the second attempt, Leung read “China” as “Chee-na.” Chen also asked Leung to return to the seat as he could not administer Leung’s affirmation owing to his flag.

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Independent lawmaker Lau Siu-lai read an edited version of the oath on the first attempt. Chen asked Lau to retake it.

On the second attempt, Lau read the oath in slow motion. Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, told Lau to stop as the process took ten minutes.

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Edward Yiu Chung-yim, representing the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency, added the phrase “for democracy and for Hong Kong’s sustainable development” to his oath.

Chen asked Yiu to retake it. On the second attempt, Yiu read his own version and was told again to retake it. However, the lawmaker refused and walked away.

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Nathan Law of Demosistō said: “This sacred ceremony [of oath-taking] has become a tool for the authorities trying to suppress public opinion. You can even destroy this body [of mine], but you can never imprison my mind.”

Law questioned the power of the Legislative Council Secretariat and whether the three lawmakers whose oaths were rejected would be allowed to participate in the election of LegCo president.

Chen asked Law to return to his seat, though Law refused. The oath-taking ceremony paused as Law refused to leave the stage until Chen had given him an answer.

Other pro-democracy lawmakers who protested during the oath-taking included Leung Kwok-hung, Ray Chan Chi-chuen, Helena Wong Pik-wan and Shiu Ka-chun.

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Leung Kwok-hung, nicknamed Long Hair, brought to the stage a yellow umbrella that symbolised the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. He said before taking the oath: “I want genuine universal suffrage. Leung Chun-ying, step down.”

Leung read the oath at an unusual pace so that the full names of China and Hong Kong became “China…People’s, Republic, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region” as the lawmaker swore to serve the territory.

Leung said after the oath: “Withdraw the August 31 decision of the Chinese National People’s Congress. I want genuine universal suffrage. People will have self-determination with no approval from the Communist Party.”

The lawmaker did not sign the oath. He tore up a prop representing the August 31, 2014 decision of the Chinese National People’s Congress – the decision denied open elections for the chief executive.

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Ray Chan Chi-chuen of the People Power party said before taking the oath: “Taking oaths is the affair of the Legislative Council. The government is not allowed to interfere in LegCo affairs.”

After the oath, Chan said: “I am a Hongkonger. I want genuine universal suffrage. Filibustering is to resist evil laws. Leung Chun-ying, step down.”

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Ray Chan Chi-chuen. Photo: HKFP.

Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung of the Labour Party ripped up a Basic Law prop after taking his oath.

Helena Wong Pik-wan of the Democratic Party said: “Retract the August 31 decision of the Chinese National People’s Congress. The Water Supplies Department must examine all water supply in Hong Kong.”

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Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said: “Democratic self-determination. Autocracy will die. Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen must not be the president [of the Legislative Council].”

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Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party said: “Combat corruption. ‘CY Wolf’ step down.”

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Social welfare functional lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said: “Umbrella Movement might have ended but it did not collapse. We will put up resistance. We are back.”

Ann Chiang Lai-wan of the pro-Beijing party DAB was the only lawmaker who took the oath in Mandarin.

Pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao cited “authoritative sources” on Tuesday as saying that incoming lawmakers may not be able to take office if they do not take the oath properly. It said the government was prepared to start legal battles and apply for an interpretation of the Basic Law by the Chinese National People’s Congress if a court decision cannot be made.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.