The “Hong Kong is not China” flag that he wore on his back during the Legislative Council swearing-in ceremony was “only fashion,” Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chun-hang has said. Leung, who belongs to the localist Younspiration party, spoke about his controversial oath-taking on RTHK radio on Thursday.

He pronounced China as “Chee-na” during the oath because he had an accent, he said.

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Legislative Council Secretary Chen Wei-on told Leung that he did not have the authority to administer his oath on Wednesday because the flag gave him “reason to doubt” whether Leung had understood the meaning of the oath.

On the radio Thursday morning, Leung was asked why he pronounced “China” differently on air. He responded that he was “working hard to correct his Ap Lei Chau accent.”

Leung was then asked whether he would be able to pronounce the term properly next week, when he is expected to take the oath again. The lawmaker said he “didn’t know” and that he would “try his best.” He also said that he was unsure whether he would still be using English, or if he will be able to pronounce the other words correctly.

Sixtus “Baggio” Leung, one of the three whose oaths were rejected. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

“[Chen] said that I didn’t understand the oath – maybe he thinks my English is bad,” he said.

Leung said that his pronunciation of China as “Chee-na” was not offensive and that Sun Yat-sen, a Chinese revolutionary who was the first president of the Republic of China, also used the term.

“Chee-na” is similar to the Chinese pronunciation of the archaic Japanese name for China, “Shina.” 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.

Yau Wai-ching, whose oath was also rejected on Wednesday, unfurls flag at LegCo. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Pro-democracy lawmakers staged protests and altered their oaths as the new term of the Legislative Council kicked off on Wednesday. Two other lawmakers, Yau Wai-ching, also of Youngspiration, and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, representing the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency, also had their oaths rejected Wednesday.

Leung said on Wednesday that he is asking the Legislative Council Secretariat about the legal basis for declaring his oath invalid.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.