Pro-Beijing legislators staged a walkout of Hong Kong's legislature Wednesday morning local time, forcing an adjournment and preventing the swearing-in of two rebel lawmakers who do not accept that the semiautonomous territory is part of China.
Hundreds of highly organized loyalist protesters — who clutched printed sheets as they were directed off chartered buses by chaperones — gathered in the driving rain outside the chamber. They called for newly elected legislators Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung, 30, to “apologize to Chinese people everywhere” and to step down.
One group of protesters carried a banner that read “Even though there are 1.4 billion Chinese people, there is no space for one national traitor."
"It is impossible for us to stay in the chamber. We had to leave," pro-China legislator Wong Kwok-kin told media.
Starry Lee, head of the Beijing loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the walkout was "in response to the wrath of people in Hong Kong and Chinese people worldwide. We need [Yau and Leung] to apologize seriously, otherwise I believe it will be impossible for this wrath to subside."
The two pro-independence legislators were the most contentious among five lawmakers whose pledges were rejected during an inauguration session last week because they departed from script.
At that session, Leung, the founder of the radical Youngspiration party, pledged allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation,” draped himself in a blue banner reading “Hong Kong is not China,” and appeared to pronounce “China” as “Shina” — a highly derogatory wartime Japanese term for China.
His party colleague Yau also pledged allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation” and appeared to call the People’s Republic of China the “People’s Ref-cking of Shina.”
Edward Yiu, another newly elected legislator whose oath was rejected last week because he departed from the formal pledge (adding his own promise to fight for “genuine universal suffrage”) was sworn in without incident before the loyalist walkout.
The use of the term Shina by Yau and Leung has triggered days of vicious condemnation from pro-China organizations in Hong Kong, with everything from full-page newspaper advertisements to two separate lawsuits flung at them.
The territory’s Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying (no relation to Sixtus Leung), also singled out the duo Tuesday when he criticized the fiasco during last week’s swearing-in.
Late Tuesday, in a highly unusual intervention, the government filed a request to the territory’s High Court, demanding a judicial review of the Legislative Council president’s authority to allow Yau and Leung to retake their oaths, as well as a temporary injunction barring the two from taking office.
The court granted the review, which is now slated for November, but rejected the injunction in a verdict handed down after 11 p.m., less than 12 hours from today's legislative session.
"The ones who need to apologize to Hongkongers are the ones who did not respect Hongkongers. Today, that is the pro-Beijing lawmakers," Yau tells TIME in her office at the legislative building. It's hard to know what I will feel in the future. Today, all I want is to take my oath."
— With reporting by Nash Jenkins / Hong Kong