Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers said on Wednesday they would all resign after China gave the city the power to disqualify politicians viewed as a threat to national security and oust four of their colleagues.
The resignations are the latest blow to the city’s beleaguered pro-democracy movement, which has been subject to sustained attack since China passed a comprehensive national security law, including arrests for social media posts and activists fleeing overseas.
“We from the pro-democracy camp will stand together with our colleagues. We will step down en masse,” said Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the 15 remaining pro-democracy legislators, at a press conference.
The previous Wednesday, the Hong Kong government ousted four pro-democracy members minutes after a leading Chinese legislative committee decided that authorities in the semi-autonomous city could remove any lawmaker identified as a threat to national security without going to court to go.
Hong Kong’s leader is elected by pro-Beijing committees, but half of the 70 seats in its legislature are directly elected, giving the city’s 7.5 million residents a rare chance to hear their votes at the ballot box.
The mass resignation will make lawmakers almost entirely composed of those who follow Beijing’s line.
Hong Kong’s inability to elect their leaders and all of their lawmakers was at the core of the growing opposition to Beijing’s rule, which sparked months of large and often violent protests over the past year.
China passed the Security Law in June to quell the protests, describing it as a “sword” hanging over the heads of its critics.
“If due process, the protection of systems and functions and the fight for democracy and human rights resulted in a disqualification, I would be honored,” said Dennis Kwok, one of the displaced four, after his dismissal on Wednesday.
The Quartet was initially banned from voting in the city’s general election, due on September 6, after the US was asked to impose sanctions on officials in Hong Kong.
These elections were postponed and authorities blamed the coronavirus.
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said the disqualifications were “constitutional, legal, reasonable and necessary”.
More than 10,000 people were arrested during the anti-democracy protests, and the courts are now filled with legal proceedings – many of them involving opposition lawmakers and prominent activists.
Critics say the broadly worded provisions of the law are a hammer blow to the flickering freedoms China promised to allow Hong Kong to exist after British rule ended in 1997.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)