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Hong Kong Lawmakers Blocked From Being Sworn In After Protests

A group of pro-democracy lawmakers — including one who used the term "Shina," a strong slur in Chinese culture, in the middle of her oath of office — were kept from joining the legislative council.

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Two newly-elected lawmakers didn't wait long to express their radical pro-democracy attitudes as they arrived to be sworn into Hong Kong's Legislative Council last week.

Bobby Yip / Reuters

On their first day inside the legislature, they challenged — or insulted depending on your point of view — Beijing by citing Gandhi, unfurling flags bearing the words "Hong Kong is not China," and delivering their oath of office to the "Hong Kong nation," a term often used by pro-independence localists instead of "the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China."

Things got tricky when Leung Chung-hang, a 30-year-old member of radical political party Youngspiration, pronounced “China” as “Chee-na,” and Yau Wai-ching, 25, Leung's colleague, referred to China as "the People’s Re-fucking of Shina.”

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The 77-word official oath requires legislators to swear to "the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China" before they take office. Since the two didn't actually deliver the oath as written, the clerk took his time declaring them official members of the parliament.

The two were once again blocked from taking office this Wednesday, as dozens of pro-Beijing legislators staged a walkout to prevent them from being sworn in.

Lam Yik Fei / Getty Images

The ending of the session to prevent there from being a quorum was a last-minute attempt to prevent separatism, a long-time taboo, from being added to the public agenda, according to Reuters.

Soon after the first attempted swearing-in, people started to protest their use of the archaic slang term "Shina," which was used by the Japanese during the World War II.

Bobby Yip / Reuters

The word was originally neutral but has been commonly perceived as a derogative racial term referring to the Chinese ethnic, those offended argued.

As 94% of people in Hong Kong are ethnically Chinese, many criticized the usage of the racially-charged language in public as "inappropriate" and not "constructive."

Taking the high road when being oppressed was a common theme in the responses on Weibo and Facebook.

"[...] To draw a line with the ruling Communist Party by using derogative terms used by another country in recent history against the Chinese won't make you look noble, it only reflects your narrow vision, confused concept of ethnicity, as well as too much of a prejudice and hatred," read a comment on Facebook post from Yau.

Some acknowledged the new members' anger at having to declare an oath to China, but still, they said, the language was unnecessary.

@tomphillipsin can't fully accept Yau's filthy expression, though b captivated by her pulchritude. It's a counteroffensive with little blame

The two reportedly responded to the controversy by complaining about the "invalid" rule and explaining that they had an accent when speaking English.

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More than 67,000 have reportedly signed petition asking the two to apologize.

Pictures captioned "are these people qualified as members of parliament" soon spread on Weibo, and on Friday China's state-run Xinhua jumped in, according to Reuters, calling the behavior "despicable."

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The two in question, and another young legislator who vowed to “fight for genuine universal suffrage,” will have another chance to be sworn-in next Wednesday.

Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.

Contact Beimeng Fu at beimeng.fu@buzzfeed.com.

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