Pro-Beijing supporters mass outside Hong Kong parliament amid turmoil

by Tom Phillips in Beijing and Eric Cheung in Hong Kong / 26 October 2016 / The Guardian

Thousands of pro-Beijing protesters gathered outside Hong Kong’s parliament on Wednesday as an intensifying row over the former British colony’s relationship with China boiled over on to the streets.Recent weeks have seen the semi-autonomous city thrust into what looks set to be a new period of political turbulence, as a younger generation of pro-democracy activists faces off against Beijing loyalists.

Two years after the historic umbrella movement street protests, six young pro-democracy activists, who are pushing for greater autonomy from China, claimed seats in Hong Kong’s 70-member legislative council (Legco) last month.

Their election came amid an upsurge in anti-Beijing sentiment that has included growing calls for independence from China, until recently a taboo subject.

At a chaotic swearing in ceremony on 12 October, two of the newly elected lawmakers, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung from the Youngspiration party, thumbed their noses at Beijing by refusing to declare their allegiance to China and carrying blue flags reading: “Hong Kong is not China.”

Yau caused particular outrage by vowing to defend a place she called “the Hong Kong special administrative region of the People’s Refucking of Shina”.

Shina is an archaic and derogatory way of referring to China in Japanese. Both oaths were rejected.

In the fortnight since that dramatic ceremony, a bitter row has erupted over whether Yau, 25, and Leung, 30, should still be allowed to take up their posts in Legco.

The pair have also found themselves at the centre of a ferocious propaganda campaign, in both Hong Kong and mainland China.

In an editorial, the Communist party-run Global Times called for the politicians, who have both publicly backed the idea of independence, to be excluded from the legislature and warned that anyone who challenged Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong would “pay the price”.

“This is a fight in which we must strike back, even if trouble may arise,” the newspaper said.

Hong Kong’s government has also joined the offensive, accusing Yau and Leung of acting “in an offensive manner that harmed the feelings of our compatriots”.

On 18 October the former colony’s pro-Beijing chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, took the highly unusual step of launching legal proceedings in an bid to stop them retaking their oath and taking up their seats.

With a judicial review to determine their fate now underway, pro-Beijing legislators last week staged a walkout to prevent Yau and Leung being sworn in.

Writing this week in the South China Morning Post newspaper, one commentator said he believed Beijing supporters hoped to transform the two pro-independence activists into “two political corpses”.

“I just can’t see Beijing letting them into Legco,” Michael Chugani wrote.

The latest chapter of the political turmoil kicked off on Wednesday morning, as a reported 10,000 pro-Beijing demonstrators assembled outside Legco carrying red Chinese flags and placards that read: “Say no to Hong Kong independence!”, “Kick out pro-independence lawmakers!” and “Hong Kong belongs to China!”

“As Chinese people, we have a duty to speak out,” one protester, who gave his name as Wong, told the local television network iCable News.

“We are here to oppose the two running dogs in Hong Kong, who insulted all Chinese people around the world,” said another, named only as Ku, according to Now TV.

“As Chinese people, we have a duty to speak out,” one protester, who gave his name as Wong, told the local television network iCable News.

“We are here to oppose the two running dogs in Hong Kong, who insulted all Chinese people around the world,” said another, named only as Ku, according to Now TV.

Inside the legislature there were chaotic scenes as Yau and Leung reportedly “barged” into the chamber, with the support of other pro-democracy lawmakers, in defiance of an order banning their admission to the morning’s session.

The session was subsequently suspended. Read more…

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