When Sixtus “Baggio” Leung and Yau Wai-ching took the Hong Kong legislative council (LegCo) oath of office on October 12, they denounced Chinese governmental control and emphasized their pro-Independence positions. They spread out a banner that declared “Hong Kong is not China” and called Hong Kong a “Nation” rather than the “Special Administrative Region” dictated in the oath script. Leung and Yau, a 30-year-old Youngspiration party founder and a 25-year-old party member, were among the half-dozen that escaped Beijing’s prohibition of pro-Independence candidates.
Leung and Yau faced serious consequences for their defiant oath-taking. Under pressure from Beijing, the judiciary barred Leung and Yau from LegCo and declared their seats vacant on November 15th. The legislature has demanded that Yau and Leung pay nearly 930,000 Hong Kong dollars each to replace the salaries and expenses they received in the few weeks after their election.
Former English Hong Kong governor Christoffer F. Patten warns that the independence movements can be detrimental to Hong Kong’s democracy. Patten drew a distinction between pro-Independence and the pursuit of democracy through modes such as freer elections. He cited the 2014 protests as a positive model of change. Patten also denounced the Chinese government for its intervention in the local Hong Kong issue, recommending that Beijing leave the Hong Kong political conflict to be judged by the local courts.
Read more on the Hong Kong movement for independence here.
Meanwhile, the public judges Yau harsher than Leung because of her gender. According to Joseph Cho, a professor of gender studies at the University of Hong Kong, Yau’s usage of curse words was deemed unbecoming of a woman. Cho notes that “[there are] people who say [Yau’s] success in the election was only because she looks beautiful — comments that aren’t applicable to men.”
The two Youngspiration party members rejected such criticism with vigor. Leung declared that the past two years with the peaceful yet unsuccessful protests clearly indicate the impossibility of standing against the “immoral and authoritarian” Beijing through moral methods. Yau replied to her critics that she was simply one of the young activists, and though the elderly of Hong Kong may not understand “[young Hong Kongers are] trying to protect what [the older generation] built in the past.” In response to the court decision to remove them from their seats, Yau responded: “If the court [can] strip us of our qualification, we all know what kind of society we live in now.”
The Hong Kong High Court will decide whether to accept the two legislator-elects’ appeals to the local court decision this week. Well ahead of this decision on November 20th, the Chinese head of state Xi Jinping emphasized in a meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying that there will be no room for Hong Kong’s independence in the “one country, two systems” political structure.