Pro-democracy lawmakers (from left) Helena Wong, Wu Chi-wai, Andrew Wan and Lam Cheuk-ting talk to the media before handing in their resignation letters at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on Nov. 12. (Photo: AFP)
Pro-democracy legislators have resigned en masse from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) in a major blow for attempts to establish universal suffrage in the Chinese territory.
Fifteen lawmakers resigned after four pro-democracy lawmakers were disqualified from LegCo after failing to meet a “loyalty requirement” imposed by Beijing’s top legislative body, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
It had passed a resolution demanding saying Hong Kong lawmakers “who promote or support Hong Kong independence and refused to admit China’s exercise of sovereignty over the city should be considered in breach of their oath of allegiance to the special administrative region (SAR).”
Chief executive Carrie Lam, a Catholic, said the initial four were in violation of their duties and oaths of loyalty to the Hong Kong government under Article 104 of the Basic Law, the territory’s mini-constitution adopted after China assumed control of Hong Kong from Britain 23 years ago.
“Today, we announce we will resign from our positions as our colleagues are being disqualified by the central government's ruthless move,” Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said.
The Hong Kong Democracy Council said Lam had “handed down a death sentence to what remains of Hong Kong’s political system.”
It added that the 70-seat LegCo was “despite its flaws, Hong Kong’s last defense embodying any elements of democracy and of the promise of Hong Kongers governing Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong has endured an enforced cultural assimilation with China, widely seen as a lowering of the territory’s standards, despite an agreement with Britain that promised democracy and 50 years of autonomy under the Basic Law.
From language, education and medicine to the courts, policing and promised political reforms, Hong Kongers have been told to accept compromise and make way for increasing numbers of mainlanders whose expectations are different.
That has encouraged the democrats and led to hundreds of thousands of people protesting in the streets while smaller groups of hardliners clashed with police amid mass arrests.
“I have said that … if observing due process and protecting systems … and fighting for democracy and human rights would lead to the consequences of being disqualified, it would be my honor. I say the same today,” ousted lawmaker Dennis Kwok said.
The four disqualified lawmakers were Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office; Edwina Lau, deputy commissioner of police in Hong Kong; and Li Jiangzhou and Li Kwai-wah, two officials from the Hong Kong national security office.
Their dismissal promoted a rebuke from the United States.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had “flagrantly violated” its commitments to Hong Kong by disqualifying the four opposition lawmakers from the Hong Kong legislature.
“‘One country, two systems’ is now merely a fig leaf covering the CCP’s expanding one-party dictatorship in Hong Kong,” O’Brien said.