HONG KONG - Two pro-independence Hong Kong lawmakers lost their appeal Wednesday against a ban preventing them from taking up their seats in parliament as Beijing faces accusations of stepping up interference in the city's politics.
Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, deliberately misread their oaths of office, inserted expletives and draped themselves with "Hong Kong is not China" flags during a swearing-in ceremony in October.
They are part of a new movement advocating a complete split from Beijing for semi-autonomous Hong Kong, as young pro-democracy campaigners grow frustrated with a lack of political reform.
Beijing hit out at the publicly elected pair in a ruling earlier in November that effectively prevented them from taking up their seats because of the way they took the oath.
Following Beijing's protest, Hong Kong's High Court ruled the two lawmakers should be disqualified from the legislature because their oaths were invalid, in an unprecedented judicial review brought by the city's leader and justice secretary.
Yau and Leung appealed, but lost out Wednesday in a judgement that took Bejiing's ruling into account, amid criticism that the separation of powers in Hong Kong has been compromised.
"The Court of Appeal's judgement incorporates Beijing's interpretation that effectively lays down a constitutional requirement on oath-taking by Legco," the Court of Appeal said in a statement.
The judgement said the court's duty to apply the city's constitution, known as the Basic Law, outweighed the doctrine of separation of powers and non-intervention.
Yau and Baggio were originally offered a second chance at taking the oath by the president of the legislature, but Beijing stepped in to prevent that.
Its special "interpretation" of the Basic Law ruled that any oath-taker who does not follow the prescribed wording of the oath, "or takes the oath in a manner which is not sincere or not solemn", should be disqualified.
Wednesday's appeal judgement said there could be "no dispute" that Yau and Leung had declined to take the oath.
They are now expected to take their case to the Court of Final Appeal.
The judgement came as the government announced plans to take a third democratically elected lawmaker to court over her oath-taking.
The department of justice said it would initiate proceedings against teacher Lau Siu-lai, a prominent activist who made her name during the city's mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014.
It gave no further detail on the grounds for the case.
Lau's oath was rejected during her swearing in as she read the pledge at a snail's pace, leaving long gaps between every word.
She was later given a second chance to read it and was able to take up her seat.