Pro-Beijing MPs in Hong Kong's legislature have prevented two newly elected MPs from being sworn in. The pair are demanding independence for the Chinese region.
Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching of the radical Youngspiration party are among five MPs who have yet to take their oaths of office for their parliamentary seats.
Part of a new wave of activist candidates elected in September on the back of rising anti-China sentiment in the semi-autonomous city-state, the two new MPs last week altered their first pledges in an act of defiance against China.
Thirty-year-old Leung and 25-year-old Yau - who took the English version of the oath - vowed to defend the "Hong Kong nation" and mispronounced China as Shina, which is an archaic Japanese term widely seen as a derogatory reference to the country. Leung also crossed his fingers while taking the oath, while Yau combined "republic" with a curse word.
The legislative assembly has long been the main locus of the struggle between Beijing and the ex-British colony.
Loyalists walk out
The loyalists staged a walkout before their turn and forced the meeting's adjournment to next week, leaving the 70-seat chamber without the 35-member quorum needed.
Loyalist MPs attacked Leung and Yau for being "disrespectful and insulting China," demanding they apologize, while Leung threw slices of luncheon meat at them, a reference to their criticisms when the pro-democracy camp used similar delaying tactics.
"We haven't had any sense of remorse from them, so we just have to do what I believe to be a very unfortunate choice, to walk out from the scene, to disallow the swearing ceremony to go on," said pro-Beijing lawmaker Paul Tse.
Yau said the loyalists should be the ones to apologize "because they are the ones who are betraying Hong Kongers."
Outside the city's legislature, dozens of pro-Beijing protesters held placards condemning the pair for insulting China.
jbh/kl (dpa, AP)