Members of the pro-democracy camp made the “solemn decision” to collectively resign from the legislature on Monday should Beijing seek to disqualify any democrats during Tuesday’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress meeting.
The democrats’ decision follows unconfirmed local media reports that Beijing may target four lawmakers for purported Basic Law violations following attempts to filibuster legislation.
“We would like to make use of the mass resignation to reflect our unity [and] to protest against the tyranny of the central and SAR government.” Democratic Party Chairman Wu Chi-wai said. He added that a decision by Beijing to disqualify lawmakers would reveal that the central authorities “do not respect Hongkongers’ voices and opinions.”
“We have done our utmost to carry out our duties to monitor and hold the government accountable,” Wu added, referring to the democrats’ behaviour in the legislature since the beginning of the extended term in September.
Lawmaker Dennis Kwok told the press that democrats have simply followed the rules of procedure: “It seems like those in power cannot tolerate those in opposition anymore.” He said that such a move from Beijing would constitute a “serious departure from the spirit of one country two systems.”
“If this decision is to come, it goes directly against the promise to the Hong Kong people that the Legislative Council will one day be composed [through] universal suffrage,” referring to Article 68 of the Basic Law which states that the “ultimate aim is the election of all the members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage.”
Kenneth Leung said any move to disqualify Hong Kong lawmakers would be “most irrational behaviour” and “render the operation of the Legislative Council and the Basic Law totally useless.”
‘Paralysing’ the legislature
Earlier on Monday, pro-Beijing figures, including Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, Tam Yiu-chung and Ip Kwok-him, called for the disqualification of democrats Lam Cheuk-ting and Ted Hui Chi-fung for allegedly violating their obligations as members of the Legislative Council under the Basic Law.
They accused pan-democrats of “paralysing” the Legislative Council through filibustering. They also accused them of being “unpatriotic,” questioning whether the pan-democrat’s behaviour contravened the city’s mini-constitution. Article 104 requires all legislative council members to uphold the Basic Law and “swear allegiance” to the Hong Kong government.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Alice Mak has also raised concerns that filibustering tactics may violate the recently imposed security law.
The pan-democrat camp have been deploying filibustering techniques, including making long-winded speeches and repeated calls for quorum, during sessions since the start of the new extended term one month ago.
Lam hit back on Monday, telling the press that the calls for disqualification were “outrageous.” He referred to Article 75 of the Basic Law, which requires that at least half of the Legislative Council members be present for quorum. “We are just following the requirements of the law,” he said, referring to repeated quorum calls made by democrats during law-making sessions.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho launched a public poll on his Facebook page on Sunday night asking members of the public whether they were satisfied with the performance of the Legislative Council and whether the lawmakers involved in filibustering should “leave immediately” without serving the extended term.
In September, Tam Yiu-chung called on pro-democracy lawmakers Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung to leave the legislature of their accord after they were disqualified in July from running in the now-postponed Legislative Council elections.