Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Sixtus Leung banned from parliament after criticising China during swearing-in ceremony

Hong Kongs high court has banned two young pro-independence activists from the citys parliament, plunging the former British colony deeper into an intensifying political crisis.

One week after Beijing issued a highly unusual ruling designed to stop the newly elected politicians taking office, the court on Tuesday told Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio Sixtus Leung, 30, that they had been disqualified from their positions.

The judge Thomas Au Hing-cheung ruled that the pair, who launched a dramatic anti-China protest during their swearing-in ceremony last month, could no longer take up their seats since they had manifestly refused to solemnly, sincerely and truly bind themselves to Hong Kongs laws.

During that ceremony, Yau and Leung, who have both called for a complete split with mainland China, altered the text of their oaths, declaring allegiance to the Hong Kong nation. They also unfurled banners that said Hong Kong is not China and used an expletive to refer to China.

The protest enraged officials in Beijing and led Hong Kongs chief executive to launch an unprecedented legal challenge, seeking to remove the pair from office.

Legislators must swear allegiance to the Hong Kong special administrative region of the Peoples Republic of China, according to the Basic Law, the citys mini-constitution.

But the judge ruled that acting in concert and deliberately the pair had made a willful and deliberate attempt to insult China during the ceremony and had not sought to suggest otherwise.

His ruling said unchallenged evidence showed Yau and Leung had sought to promote Hong Kongs independence from China as well as to make a mockery of China and the Peoples Republic of China in a derogatory and humiliating manner.

Speaking outside the court after the verdict, with Yau by his side, Leung said: The judgment simply reflects that the elections in Hong Kong are meaningless and their result can be easily overturned by the government.

We have no hesitation that we will go forward with an appeal, he added, choking back tears. We have no regrets in taking our part in defending Hong Kong.

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