A number of pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong have resigned after a new law was passed by the Chinese government in Beijing effectively banning opposition; four of their colleagues from the Hong Kong legislative council were removed just hours later.
The Hong Kong legislature – which was already stacked heavily in favour of pro-Beijing lawmakers – had four pro-democracy legislators removed as the semi-autonomous region continues to be brought closer under the control of Beijing.
Beijing imposed a law on Wednesday that allowed for the removal of any legislators that they branded as ‘unpatriotic’, with four legislators from the pro-democracy faction being removed with immediate effect. The remainder of the pro-democracy lawmakers then resigned after the move, meaning that there is almost no opposition to Beijing left within the Hong Kong legislature.
This comes just months after Beijing imposed a new security law upon Hong Kong, which allowed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to criminalise any activity they believed to be “secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces”.
The Security Law – passed in June 2020 – was an attempt to prevent the protests that had gripped Hong Kong in recent years over the continued decline of democracy in the country and the erosion of the distinct political and legal system that Hong Kong was supposed to have from China following the handover from British rule.
Hong Kong was formerly a British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but retaining some autonomy from Beijing under ‘one country, two systems’ until 2047. This move means that the legislature now almost entirely resides in the hands of pro-CCP lawmakers, who are able to exercise almost complete control over the territory.
The chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, Wu Chi-wai, stated: “We can no longer tell the world that we still have ‘one country, two systems’, this declares its official death.”
Amongst those removed from the legislature were the Civic party’s Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung of the Professionals Guild. All of these lawmakers had already been barred from running in legislative elections originally scheduled for September.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said;
“[The move was] a further assault on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and freedoms under the UK-China Joint Declaration”.
“This campaign to harass, stifle and disqualify democratic opposition tarnishes China’s international reputation and undermines Hong Kong’s long-term stability”.
The new law creates an effective ban on anyone who supports independence from sitting in the Hong Kong legislature. The law – passed by Beijing’s highest legislative body – also means that anyone who refuses to recognise Beijing’s sovereignty over Hong Kong or seeks help from “foreign countries or foreign forces to interfere in the affairs of the region” will be removed from office.
As with the Security Law, passed in June, there is a fear that the ambiguity in this legislation means that the CCP can remove and (under the Security Law) potentially prosecute any political opponents within the Hong Kong legislature, meaning that the system of two separate systems is effectively ended.
The remaining 15 pro-democracy legislators appeared before the press following the removal of their colleagues, holding hands and chanting, before announcing that they would resign on Thursday.
Claudia Mo, a legislator who spoke at the press conference stated;
“This is an actual act by Beijing to sound the death-knell of Hong Kong’s democracy fight”.
“From now on, anyone they find to be politically incorrect or unpatriotic or simply not likeable to look at – they can just oust you”.