Police armed with pepper spray prepare to confront protesters gathered outside the Chinese government's headquarters in Hong Kong.
Police armed with pepper spray prepare to confront protesters gathered outside the Chinese government's headquarters in Hong Kong. ALEX HOFFORD

Heat rises as Hong Kong independence issues boil over

POLICE fired pepper spray at protesters who threw road cones and bottles in clashes at China's Hong Kong office on Sunday during a demonstration against Beijing's attempts to squash a resurgent independence movement.

A ruling expected yesterday from a committee of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, is expected to bar new MPs Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung from sitting in Hong Kong's parliament.

Each pledged allegiance to the Hong Kong nation and displayed a "Hong Kong is not China” banner during a swearing-in ceremony for the legislative council last month. Their oaths were not accepted and their right to re-take them is being challenged by the Hong Kong Government.

Many of Hong Kong's legal and political elite see the situation as one of the biggest tests the key financial hub has faced since its handover to China in 1997.

Some fear its status as an autonomous territory with an independent rule of law is under threat.

Hundreds of police with riot shields and batons were near China's Liaison Office, a symbol of Beijing's increasing influence on the formerly freewheeling city.

"This is about our future,” said one protester.

Others chanted for independence, which is opposed by Beijing and has long been a taboo subject.

The standing committee of the National People's Congress discussed invoking a rarely used power to interpret Hong Kong's mini "Basic Law” constitution to prevent Ms Yau, 25, and Mr Leung, 30, taking office.

The Hong Kong Bar Association said an intervention by Beijing would deal a "severe blow” to the city's judicial independence and undermine international confidence in Hong Kong's autonomy.



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