Several newly-elected members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council [official website] on Wednesday protested for pro-democracy rights while taking their oaths, an act which invalidates their oaths and may bar them from the legislature. Two of the lawmakers held signs [BBC report] 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. They were also prohibited [Reuters report] from attending a session to vote on a legislative president. Hong Kong went returned to Chinese rule in 1997, and its articles declare the territory an inalienable part of China. All legislators are required to take this oath before they assume their position.
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 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. Chinese state media criticized [JURIST report] detained human rights lawyers for undermining the rule of law last year. In December, prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was released [JURIST report] after receiving a suspended sentence. Pu was detained [JURIST report] 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 [JURIST reports] bail.