In a blow to the pro-democracy movement, four opposition lawmakers were disqualified from Hong Kong’s parliament Friday over charges that they did not take their swearing-in oaths seriously.

The decision by Hong Kong’s High Court to disqualify the four fuels fears that China’s communist government in Beijing is increasingly curtailing the autonomy and political freedom the former British colony was promised when it was handed over to China in 1997.

Nathan Law, Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu were sworn in as lawmakers in October following city-wide elections, but modified their oaths and were challenged in a lawsuit by Hong Kong’s Beijing-friendly government.

The suit claimed they didn’t take the oath “sincerely,” as required by law and turned the procedure into a “political tool.”

Long-time activist Leung, also known as “Long Hair,” took his oath while holding up a yellow umbrella, the symbol of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement that drew more than 1 million protesters, many of them occupying central Hong Kong streets for 79 days.

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Law, one of the Umbrella Movement’s student leaders, quoted revered Indian independence leader and pacifist Mahatma Gandhi before taking his oath, while Lau read her oath at a very slow pace, with long pauses between each word. Yiu added a line, saying he would “fight for genuine universal suffrage.”

Friday’s ruling was based upon an unprecedented interpretation of Hong Kong law handed down by Beijing in November. It stated that oath-takers must “accurately, completely and…