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Hong Kong’s pro-democracy party votes to disband

Lack of succession to its leadership and financial constraints are key reasons behind the dissolution of the Civic Parry
Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong attending a press conference in this file image

Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong attending a press conference in this file image. (Photo: Samantha Sin/AFP)

Published: May 30, 2023 11:03 AM GMT
Updated: May 30, 2023 11:08 AM GMT

Hong Kong’s major pro-democracy party, the Civic Party, has announced its dissolution after members refrained from taking leadership roles due to fear of retaliation from the pro-Beijing administration.

The Civic Party informed its decision through a press statement after its members held an extraordinary general meeting on May 27 and passed a resolution to wind up its activities, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported.

Civic Party Chairperson Alan Leong in the statement thanked “all liked-minded people” and said that the dissolution of the political party was a voluntary decision.

“While the Civic Party has not accomplished what we set out to do, there is a time for everything,” Leong said adding that democracy had “yet to be accomplished” in Hong Kong.

Leong also voiced his hope that “the concepts of accountability and open government have been adequately introduced to the people.”

The party cited lack of succession to its leadership and financial constraints as the key reasons to move forward towards dissolution and informed that a liquidator has been appointed to take the process further.

The decision was taken by a panel of 31 members among whom 30 voted in favor of the dissolution process and one abstained from voting.

Stephen Char, a barrister and founding member of the party told the press that he would miss the members of the group but did not feel sad about the party’s dissolution.

“Because I understand, coming together or dispersing, is a fact of life,” Char said.

“We may not have everything, but one thing we must maintain, that is our conscience. We can give up everything, but never, never give up hope,” he further added.

The Civic Party, which was also known as the “barrister party,” represented professionals in Hong Kong, including lawyers, accountants, and academics.

The party was established in 2006 and grew to become Hong Kong’s second-largest pro-democracy party after the Democratic Party.

The Civic Party managed to win 32 seats in the 2019 District Council election while the Democracy Party secured a landslide victory.

Kuan Hsin-chi, a political scholar, was the party’s first chairperson, while Senior Counsel Audrey Eu was its founding leader.

Since 2008, the party has had its representatives in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo).

However, things changed after Beijing bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and imposed the National Security Law into the city’s mini-constitution in 2020.

According to the amended law in Hong Kong, legislators are required to undertake an “oath of allegiance” once elected.

Article 104 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong stipulates that members of the Legislative Council must swear to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China.

However, pro-democracy legislators have used the oath-taking ceremony as a means of protest by modifying their oaths, bringing in objects supporting democracy, and shouting slogans which have resulted in their invalidation and removal from the legislature.

Party members – Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, and Kwok Ka-ki – were ousted from the legislature along with Kenneth Leung in November 2020 for being “unpatriotic.”

Their disqualification triggered mass resignations from pro-democracy legislators that effectively made the house solely a camp of pro-Beijing legislators.

The Civic Party refrained from contesting in the 2021 legislative elections, a year that saw a massive overhaul with a screening committee established to allow only “patriotic” legislators in the assembly.

Civic Party members Yeung, Kwok, Jeremy Tam, and Lee Yue-shun were among the 47 democrats accused of conspiring to commit subversion under the sweeping national security law.

They were accused of organizing or taking part in an unofficial primary election for the then-postponed Legislative Council election.

Yeung, Tam, and Kwok, who were denied bail in March 2021, pleaded guilty, while Lee, who was granted bail, pleaded not guilty.

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