Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan have informed the Legislative Council (LegCo) that they will leave the legislature after the original expiration date of their terms on Wednesday.
The two democrats submitted letters to the LegCo Secretariat on Monday and said they would not serve in an “appointed legislature,” after Beijing decided in August that incumbent legislators would remain in office for at least another year.
The extension of the sixth council term was presented as a solution to the lacuna that followed Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision in July to postpone the 2020 legislative election. The city’s leader cited coronavirus fears and invoked her emergency powers to delay the general polls, originally scheduled for September 6.
Critics blasted the move as depriving citizens of their right to vote. Pro-democracy lawmakers said it was tantamount to “detonating a constitutional crisis.”
Both Chan and Chu said they would not take part in the interim LegCo because it breached Article 69 of the Basic Law, stipulating that lawmakers should only serve in the legislature for four years.
Chu told reporters on Monday that he thought Hongkongers deserved a resumption of the legislative polls as soon as possible, rather than “endorsement” from Chinese authorities.
“This is an appointed legislature, rather than a legislature elected by the people,” Chu said.
Chan from the People Power, on the other hand, said he was not particularly emotional about leaving LegCo. He said he would join in on future elections, if any, and hoped citizens would continue to support him: “This is just a temporary farewell.”
The two lawmakers were the first democrats to make their departure official. Pan-democrats have been divided on whether to “boycott” the interim legislature, as members of the Democratic Party and Civic Party have expressed intentions to remain.
Democrats are expected to announce their decision on Tuesday, at a press conference revealing the results of a citywide survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute. The pollster has surveyed citizens on whether the lawmakers should serve in the Beijing-extended term.
Chu said he would continue to provide assistance to the 12 Hongkongers detained by mainland Chinese authorities and focus on addressing environmental issues after leaving LegCo.
Chan said he would also continue to call international attention to Hong Kong’s fight for freedom and democracy. He added democrats may discuss the future direction of their work outside of the legislature after more lawmakers decide whether to stay or leave.
“If more lawmakers choose to boycott [LegCo] in the coming year, I believe we will have to coordinate these powers… to monitor the behaviour of pro-establishment lawmakers remaining in LegCo,” Chan said.