The Latest: US upset over China's Hong Kong intervention

BEIJING (AP) " The Latest on China's intervention in a Hong Kong political dispute (all times local):

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4:45 a.m.

The U.S. is expressing disappointment over China's intervention in a political dispute in the semiautonomous region of Hong Kong by barring two separatist lawmakers from office.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Monday urged the Chinese and Hong Kong governments to refrain from actions that "undermine confidence" in the so-called one-country two-systems principle " under which Hong Kong retains a separate economic and political system from the communist-governed Chinese mainland until 2047.

Toner said an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and government by rule of law "is essential for Hong Kong's continued stability and prosperity."

The dispute centers on two newly elected pro-independence lawmakers who altered their oaths of office. China's top legislative panel ruled Monday that those who advocate Hong Kong independence are disqualified from becoming lawmakers.

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7 p.m.

A political science expert in Hong Kong says China's move to intervene in a Hong Kong political dispute amounted to the "strongest message yet" from China that Beijing would not tolerate serious talk of independence.

Linda Li, political science professor at City University of Hong Kong, said Monday the vast majority of Hong Kong residents do not favor breaking away from China but are instead frustrated with governance issues that have stretched on for years.

Li says if Beijing retains a relatively restrained tone in the next few days and leaves the matter in the hands of Hong Kong's authorities, "it would help cool down the tension."

She urged the government to "limit the damage" and refrain from prosecuting the two lawmakers.

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1:50 p.m.

Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, says he will implement a Chinese legislative panel's ruling that bars two democratically elected separatist lawmakers from taking office in Hong Kong.

Leung told reporters Monday that the duo from the radical Youngspiration party "deliberately violated the oath-taking procedure and content requirements of the oath."

He said, "They even insulted the country and the Chinese people in their words and deeds in the oath taking as well as advocating Hong Kong independence. Their conduct has caused widespread indignation in Hong Kong and across the country."

He said that Beijing's "interpretation has clarified that any oath taken in a manner that is not sincere or solemn is considered a decline to take the oath and that oath taken is rendered invalid." Therefore, he said, that person is disqualified.

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12:55 p.m.

A top mainland Chinese official has delivered an emotional rebuke of two Hong Kong lawmakers who used a derogatory term about China, labeling them traitors to the Chinese people.

The pair had referred to China during their swearing-in ceremony with an old-fashioned derogatory Japanese term for the country.

Li Fei, deputy secretary general of China's top legislative panel, said Monday that the comments amounted to an intentional smear against all Chinese.

Li said, "All traitors who sell out our country will never meet good ends."

He also recounted Japanese World War II atrocities in Hong Kong in graphic detail, telling of nurses raped and bodies bayoneted and tossed into the city's harbor.

"Those who witnessed the atrocities may be dead, but the children must never forget Chinese history," Li said.

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12:45 p.m.

An independent pro-democracy lawmaker in Hong Kong says Beijing is making a "needless intervention" into a political dispute in Hong Kong because the city's courts could have handled the situation.

Eddie Chu said Monday that Beijing was trying to create rhetoric about the independence movement to "threaten the movement of, particularly, young people in seeking self-determination."

The dispute stems from two recently elected Hong Kong lawmakers, Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, altering their oaths last month to insert a disparaging Japanese term for China. Chu said the two lawmakers were the first victims in this "new legal net."

Chu, Leung and Yau were among a group of pro-democracy candidates elected for the first time in September who advocate greater autonomy for Hong Kong.

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11:35 a.m.

A top Chinese legislative panel's ruling on an article in Hong Kong's mini-constitution says individuals are barred from assuming office if they fail to "lawfully and validly" take their oaths.

The ruling " described as an "interpretation" of Hong Kong's Basic Law " says an oath-taker shall be treated as declining to take their oath if he or she "intentionally reads out words which do not accord with the wording of the oath prescribed by law" or "is not sincere or not solemn."

At their swearing-in ceremony last month, two recently elected Hong Kong lawmakers, Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, altered their oaths to insert a disparaging Japanese term for China.

Displaying a flag reading "Hong Kong is not China," they vowed to defend the "Hong Kong nation."

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11 a.m.

A Chinese spokesman of the top legislative panel that has moved to bar two democratically elected separatist lawmakers from taking office in Hong Kong says the central government will not be weak in the face of advocates for independence for Hong Kong.

Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, told reporters at a briefing in Beijing: "The center's attitude is absolute. There will be no leniency."

Li warned against politicians advocating for Hong Kong's independence from the mainland, saying that in future young people should better understand the central government's requirements for governing the former British colony.

Li says public officials' oaths are "solemn" and that oaths that do not conform to legal requirements cannot be taken again.

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9:55 a.m.

China's top legislature has adopted an interpretation of an article in Hong Kong's mini-constitution on oath-taking, effectively intervening in a political dispute in the southern Chinese city despite protests there on Sunday.

The dispute centers on a provocative display of anti-China sentiment by two newly elected pro-independence Hong Kong lawmakers at their swearing-in ceremony last month.

In issuing the interpretation, the National People's Congress Standing Committee said talk of independence for Hong Kong is intended to "divide the country" and severely harms the country's unity, territorial sovereignty and national security.

The interpretation says that those who advocate for independence for Hong Kong are not only disqualified from election and from assuming posts as lawmakers but should also be investigated for their legal obligations.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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