Hong Kong (AFP) – Hong Kong has been thrown into political turmoil after Beijing barred two democratically elected lawmakers who advocate a split from China from taking up their seats.
Here are five facts about what is happening in Hong Kong:
Who is angry?
Pro-independence lawmakers Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching who have been blocked from taking up their seats in the legislature after being elected in citywide polls in September have led protests both inside and outside parliament in fury at being frozen out.
They first earned the ire of Beijing and the Hong Kong authorities by misreading their oaths during their official swearing-in, using expletives and derogatory terms for China.
Since then they have been shut out of parliament pending a judicial review in Hong Kong into whether they should be permanently disqualified.
Why has China stepped in?
Beijing Monday gave its own “interpretation” of Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, effectively barring Baggio and Yau from being given a second chance to take their oaths.
Chinese authorities have said that stepping in was necessary to bring Hong Kong back into line and to end the current chaos in the legislature.
Is this a significant move?
Although Beijing has previously made interpretations of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, they are rare, and this is the first time that it has pre-empted a decision by a Hong Kong court, which is yet to rule on the judicial review into whether or not Baggio and Yau should be disqualified.
What will be the effects?
Hong Kong’s legal community has said that Beijing stepping in before the judicial review ruling is a serious blow to the city’s rule of law and to its semi-autonomous status.
The pro-democracy camp has also accused the Hong Kong executive and Beijing of riding roughshod over the legislature to stop democratically elected representatives taking up their positions.
Protests Sunday saw self-determination and pro-independence supporters clash with police after thousands marched through the streets in protest at Beijing weighing in.
Beijing’s intervention is also likely to send a chill through Hong Kong’s business community as the city’s rule of law has been a cornerstone for investor confidence and enhanced its position as a trustworthy gateway to China.
What happens next?
There are likely to be further protests over Beijing’s decision — lawyers are planning a silent march through Hong Kong Tuesday.
It is also unlikely that the hamstrung legislature will get back to normal operations any time soon if Yau and Baggio continue to be barred.
Parliamentary sessions have descended into chaos for the past four weeks over the oath-taking saga, with six security guards left injured by confrontations Wednesday.