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Hong Kong lawyers march to oppose China blocking lawmakers from taking seats

[JURIST] More than 1,000 Hong Kong lawyers dressed in black marched [Reuters report] through the the city in silence on Tuesday in opposition of a decision by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress that barred two elected pro-independence lawmakers, Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-Ching, from taking their seats in Hong Kong's Legislative Council [official website]. In October several newly-elected members of Hong Kong's Legislative Council protested for pro-democracy rights while taking their oaths [JURIST report]. Two of the lawmakers held signs which said "Hong Kong is not China" and used swear words during the ceremony. A third lawmaker included "fight for genuine universal suffrage" as part of his oath. All legislators are required to take an oath before they assume their position, and the committee ruled that oaths by Hong Kong lawmakers must be taken accurately, sincerely and solemnly for them to be valid. The Hong Kong Bar Association [website] expressed [press release] their regret over the interpretation.

China's human rights record has garnered international attention for the government's treatment of the growing civil rights movement [JURIST op-ed] in the country, led by a number of prominent rights activists and attorneys. A Hong Kong court in August sentenced three leaders of the 2014 pro-democracy protests [JURIST report] who were convicted on charges related to their occupation of a government building. In January, Chinese authorities brought charges [JURIST report] against seven lawyers from the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm related to events that have allegedly disrupted the public order, including a police shooting. In December, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was released [JURIST report] after receiving a suspended sentence. Pu was detained in 2014 on a charge of "causing a disturbance" after he attended a weekend meeting that urged an investigation into the 1989 crackdown of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and was subsequently denied bail.

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