All 19 pro-democracy lawmakers in the opposition camp of Hong Kong’s legislature said they will resign en masse after the local government disqualified four of them, following a resolution adopted by Beijing.
“The ruling coming from the [China’s] central government simply reflects that they [Beijing] totally gave up on ‘one country, two systems’ in Hong Kong,” said Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the local Democratic Party, in a joint press conference with other pro-democracy lawmakers on Nov. 11.
He said that they will submit their letters of resignation to the Legislative Council (LegCo) President tomorrow.
The former British colony has a unicameral legislature that is partially elected by geographical constituencies. Since the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997, the chamber’s majority has gone to the pro-Beijing camp.
The Standing Committee of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, passed a resolution on Wednesday stating that Hong Kong lawmakers should be disqualified if they promote or support the city’s independence, refuse to acknowledge China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, seek out external forces to interfere with Hong Kong’s affairs, or commit acts that threaten national security, according to Chinese state-run media Xinhua.
Shortly after Xinhua’s article, the Hong Kong government announced that four pro-democracy lawmakers would be disqualified: Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, and Kwok Ka-ki of the local Civic Party, and Kenneth Leung from the LegCo’s accountancy constituency.
Wu called Beijing’s move “ruthless” and said the disqualifications were done without any legal basis.
“According to the Basic Law, there is a separation of powers. But today, the decision made by the central government simply says that all the separation of powers will be taken away, and all the power will be centralized in the chief executive [Hong Kong leader], which is a puppet of the central government,” Wu said.
He added: “Although we are facing this very difficult time, we will not give up. We will keep up our fight for democracy.”
Lawmaker Claudia Mo said: “This is an actual act by Beijing to sound the death knell of Hong Kong’s democracy fight.”
Beijing’s ruling applies to future lawmakers who are elected and candidates running for LegCo. That includes those who were barred from running in the LegCo elections originally scheduled for September, but were postponed by the government until next year, citing COVID-19 concerns.
The four disqualified lawmakers were among 12 opposition candidates who were barred from running in September.
The rubber-stamp standing committee said it passed the resolution in response to a request from Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam.
Lam subsequently held a press conference later on Wednesday, during which she explained that she made the request because lawmakers who were disqualified from running should not be eligible to remain in LegCo.
Asked by reporters whether LegCo would become a rubber-stamp legislature if all 19 lawmakers from the pro-democracy camp resigned, Lam denied the prospect.
She added that “there is nothing to be shameful” about having no opposition lawmakers in LegCo, and she would be “more excited when bills are passed more efficiently.”
Its my honour having served as a HK legislator. I might not be given the same opp in the future. But I have faith the talented & courageous youth will help build our city for better. I love HK, this is a firm conviction that I will not yield to any new challenges now and ahead. pic.twitter.com/B8kyn1v2uT
— Alvin Yeung 楊岳橋 (@AlvinYeungnk) November 11, 2020
China’s hawkish state-run media Global Times, in an article published less than an hour after the pro-democracy lawmakers announced their resignations, claimed that the four incumbent lawmakers were disqualified because they were “colluding with foreign forces.”
It cited as evidence Yeung’s trip to the United States in August 2019, when he advocated for Hong Kong protesters’ five demands, including universal suffrage in city elections and an inquiry into alleged police violence against protesters. The pro-democracy movement was ignited in June last year, upon widespread opposition to a proposed extradition bill that would allow individuals to be sent to mainland China for trial.
“This is a dark day for Hong Kong’s democracy,” stated Benedict Rogers, chief executive of British NGO Hong Kong Watch, in a statement.
“It will turn Hong Kong’s legislature into little more than a rubber stamp comprised of pro-Beijing acolytes, entirely unrepresentative of the people of Hong Kong,” Rogers added.
He predicted that Beijing would next clamp down on the city’s judiciary system. “This will have significant ramifications for the rule of law and the city’s status as a common-law jurisdiction,” he said.
Washington-based lobbying group HKDC also issued a statement calling on the U.S. government to take action, including sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials, after Beijing and Lam “handed down a death sentence to what remains of Hong Kong’s political system.”
“The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) might see an opportunity—especially while the U.S. is occupied with its recent elections—to test the world’s resolve on defending Hong Kong,” HKDC said.
In Hong Kong, local pro-democracy group Civil Human Rights Front, which has organized several mass marches since June last year, called for all Hongkongers to be united to resist suppression under totalitarianism.
On its Facebook page, the group said Beijing’s latest move showed that it had no desire to listen to the people.