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December, 6, 2016

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Disqualified separatist Hong Kong lawmakers lose appeal

HONG KONG--Two separatist Hong Kong lawmakers lost their appeal Wednesday against a ruling disqualifying them from office because they altered their oaths with an anti-China insult.

The Court of Appeal sided with a judgment earlier this month barring Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching of the Youngspiration Party from taking their seats in the city's Legislative Council.

It agreed with the High Court's decision two weeks ago that the two effectively declined to take the oath, violating a section of the semiautonomous Chinese city's Basic Law constitution covering oaths taken by officials. The three-judge panel said its ruling was backed up by Beijing's own controversial interpretation of the Basic Law.

In an act of defiance at the swearing-in ceremony last month, Leung and Yau modified the oath, which requires pledging allegiance to Hong Kong as a part of China, by referring to the "Hong Kong nation" and using a derogatory term for China. They also displayed a flag that said "Hong Kong is not China." Yau, 25, cursed and Leung, 30, crossed his fingers.

The actions infuriated China's central government in Beijing, which responded with a constitutional interpretation that Hong Kong courts are required to enforce. But in an unprecedented move, the interpretation was released before the lower court came to a decision, sparking fears that Beijing was eroding Hong Kong's considerable autonomy and independent judiciary.

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