More than 44,000 people have signed an online petition against Youngspiration lawmaker-elect Yau Wai-ching, who “read the People’s Republic of China… as ‘Re-Fucking’ and China as ‘Chee-na,’” during her oath-taking at the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

The petition’s statement asked for Yau to issue a public apology and take back the “insulting and derogatory words against the Chinese people.” The petition also allows people to pick up to three choices: to condemn Yau’s behaviour; to ask for an open apology and to take back her words; as well as to request the Legislative Council remove Yau from her duties. Signatories may also write how they feel about what Yau has said.

Yau Wai-ching unfurls flag at LegCo. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Legislative Council members must take an oath before assuming office at the beginning of the new legislative term. Yau, along with Baggio Leung Chung-hang, also of Youngspiration, and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, representing the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency, had their oaths rejected on the same day.

Controversy then erupted over the the use of language during the oath. Both Leung and Yau read “China” as “Chee-na,” similar to the Chinese pronunciation of the archaic Japanese name for China, “Shina.” The term became a derogatory term for Japanese people to refer to Chinese people during the Sino-Japanese wars. Although it was later dropped and replaced by “Chugoku,” Shina still bears an offensive meaning to most Chinese people.

See also: ‘HK is not China’ flag just fashion, says lawmaker Baggio Leung after oath rejected

The two lawmakers also had with them the “Hong Kong is not China” flag while taking the oath.

YouTube video

The pro-Beijing DAB party condemned Yau and Leung in a statement Thursday night for “damaging the dignity of the Legislative Council, and offending the entire Chinese population of which included Hongkongers” in their oaths, and demanded the pair retract what they have said and issue a public apology.

Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, of the pro-establishment Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, said on radio Thursday morning that she would examine videos of oath-taking and would be complaining to the Legislative Council Secretariat about others who added to the piece and did not fulfill the requirements of the oath.

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.