The resolution, passed by China’s highest legislature, would allow Hong Kong’s executive-elected legislators to be directly expelled from the courts, consolidating Beijing’s control over semi-autonomous territory.
According to the new ruling, lawmakers seeking to promote or support Hong Kong’s independence or those who refuse to accept Beijing’s sovereignty will “immediately lose their rights.”
This applies to those who “want foreign powers to interfere in the affairs of Hong Kong, or endanger national security” and “fail to uphold basic law” – the city’s minor constitution – as well as elected legislators. “Not subject to the legal requirements and conditions” of the territory.
Following the imposition of a national security law criminalizing repression in June, Beijing effectively closed one of the few remaining avenues open to Hong Kong residents to express political dissent.
The government was detained last summer in response to pro-democracy protests that attracted more than 1 million people and plunged the city into a political crisis.
In a show of solidarity on Monday, the city’s remaining 15 pro-democracy legislators announced their collective withdrawal, with the “One Country to Systems” framework, which was supposed to give Hong Kong more autonomy from the mainland, now officially dead.
At a news conference announcing the mass resignation on Wednesday, Dennis Quake, one of the four disqualified legislators, said Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam “tried to turn the legislature into a one-party system.”
“It is ridiculous that the government should abandon the basic law and the ‘One Country to Systems’ altogether,” he said.
“Pan Democrats will stand with our ineligible colleagues and today we will all resign,” Quake said. The group said they would submit their resignations in the legislature on Thursday.
Prior to their announcement, pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo told CNN that the authorities had “put the nail in Hong Kong’s democratic struggle into practice.”
“From now on, anyone who feels politically wrong will not be allowed to run in the election,” she said. “They are making sure that only patriots can win the Hong Kong political election.”
The resolution was approved by the China National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) following a meeting in Beijing on Monday. Following the anti-government protest movement last year, the move is the latest in a series of months of opposition and pro-democracy voices in the city.
Hong Kong leader and chief executive Carrie Lam told a news conference on Wednesday that those who did not respect China’s sovereignty “could not actually perform their duties as legislators.”
“I welcome different views in the legislature and respect checks and balances,” Lam said, adding that “all of those responsibilities must be handled responsibly.”
Although a part of China, Hong Kong has its own legal and political system, limited democracy and more personal freedoms than the mainland.
RTHK has previously reported that Beijing is seeking to expel members who are now disqualified for violating Hong Kong’s basic law by filing meetings. Emily Law, former president of the Democratic Party, said she believed the Hong Kong government and the ruling Communist Party in Beijing were fed up with these tactics.
“It’s utterly devastating,” said Law, a former member of the new legislature. “If you want to oust a legislator we have policies in the basic law, but they have ignored all of this … there is no rule of law. It is sending a very bad signal to Hong Kong and the world.”
Law said the broader definition of the new ruling would apply to “almost half of the population” and that the only people who could now compete for government would be “Koutov to Beijing”.
Among them were prominent Hong Kong activist and former leader of the 2014 umbrella movement Joshua Wang and candidates of more traditional pro-democracy parties, as well as several young activists who cut their political teeth during last year’s pro-democracy protest movement.
With the Beijing ruling and the expulsion of members of the Democratic legislature, critics now fear that the Hong Kong parliament could become a rubber stamp body for pro-Beijing policies.
With reports from Eric Chiang and Christie Stout and James Griffiths in Hong Kong.
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