The newly-elected president of the Legislative Council Andrew Leung has said that he has a constitutional duty to defend the rights of three incoming lawmakers to be sworn in, despite efforts by his pro-Beijing colleagues to block the politicians from retaking their oaths.

Five lawmakers were due to retake their oaths on Wednesday after their pledges were rejected last week. However, pro-Beijing lawmakers walked out of the chamber in protest before independent lawmaker-elect Lau Siu-lai and Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching and “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang could take their oaths.

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Andrew Leung. Photo: HKFP.

“I did not approve of the behaviour of the two [Youngspiration] members, and I rejected their oaths,” Leung said. “But they are duly elected. As president, I have the constitutional duty to safeguard their rights.”

The president said the pro-Beijing camp had notified him of the walkout about half an hour before the swearing-in session, but he insisted on his original decision to allow the incoming lawmakers to retake their oaths.

“As my predecessor has said, LegCo president is a lonely job. Sometimes I have no friends,” Leung added. “Lonely I might be, but the decision I have made is impartial, and for the interests of the Legislative Council.”

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Oath-taking fallout on Wednesday. Photo: HKFP

Yau and Leung of Youngspiration referred China to “Chee-na” in last week’s swearing-in session. “Chee-na” is pronounced similarly as “Shina,” an archaic Japanese term that many Chinese people now consider offensive. Leung earlier blamed his “Ap Lei Chau” accent for mispronouncing China.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow of the DAB said that he had heard “hundreds of thousands of people” say that the Youngspiration duo had “broken their hearts” with their anti-China gesture last week.

“People who do not respect themselves and their own country, or acknowledge the Basic Law are not qualified to become lawmakers,” Chow said. “We do not agree with depriving the chamber of a quorum, but today was an emergency situation and it was a matter of principle.”

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Holden Chow of the DAB. Photo: Holden Chow, via Facebook.

“If they do not apologise to us, we think that they should not be able to take their oaths again,” the lawmaker added.

Pro-democracy lawmakers called the walkout a “violent and blunt” action.

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Pan-democrats protest. Photo: HKFP.

Helena Wong Pik-wan of Democratic Party said the pro-Beijing camp elected and then betrayed the LegCo president. In the LegCo presidential election last week, the pro-democracy camp did not cast any vote having staged a walkout.

“Isn’t this a very tragic reality?” Wong said. “[The pro-Beijing camp] also allowed the administration to intervene in the legislature. Shouldn’t they, who caused the adjournment, apologise instead?”

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Helena Wong of the Democratic Party. screenshot.

Dennis Kwok Wing-hang of the Civic Party, also a lawyer, said: “Today the pro-Beijing camp, working with the government [to halt the LegCo meeting], was hugely disrespectful,” he said. “The court case is a farce.”

He added that Justice Thomas Au, who reviewed an emergency application by the government to block the Youngspiration duo from retaking their oaths, “clearly respected” the LegCo president’s decision to allow the retaking of pledges.

Late on Tuesday, the High Court denied an application for an interim injunction launched by the government to block the Youngspiration politicians from re-taking their oaths. However, the government was granted leave for judicial review and a hearing is scheduled for November 3.

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Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok. screenshot.

Two lawmakers were able to retake their oaths before the swearing-in session was disturbed. They were pro-Beijing lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong, who omitted “Hong Kong” in his oath, and architecture functional lawyer Edward Yiu Chung-yim.

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