All Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers are to resign from the legislature after Beijing passed a resolution allowing the Hong Kong government to unseat four democrats with immediate effect.

On Wednesday, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) delivered a decision stating that legislators who promote or support independence, refuse to accept China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, appeal to foreign forces to interfere with the region’s affairs or endanger national security will lose their eligibility at the Legislative Council (LegCo).

Pro-democracy lawmakers (R) join hands at the start of a press conference in a Legislative Council office in Hong Kong on November 11, 2020, after four of them were stripped of their seats immediately, after China gave the city the power to disqualify politicians deemed a threat to national security. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP.

The top Chinese legislative body said such behaviour would be seen as breaching the requirement of swearing allegiance to the SAR. They would also be deemed as failing to fulfil the oath to uphold the Basic Law.

Following Beijing’s resolution, the Hong Kong government announced that four incumbent lawmakers – Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung who were barred standing in the now-postponed LegCo election – were disqualified.

At a press conference, all democrats chanted “Hong Kong add oil. Together we stand” as they announced that they would hand in their notices on Thursday.

Democratic Party chief Wu Chi-wai said the resolution was ridiculous as it transferred all powers to the chief executive: “It reflects that the central government has completely given up on the Basic Law and One Country, Two Systems.”

“Democrats are facing a whole new set of circumstances. In view of our colleagues who were ousted today, all democrats decide to stand with them and resign en masse. The move will not frustrate us, as we know democracy will not be achieved overnight. The road to democracy is especially long when confronting an authoritarian regime. But we will not be defeated by pressure and oppression. We will find a new way.”

Wu said that the legislature’s power to monitor the government was stated in the mini-constitution, but the checks and balances were completely lost following the resolution.

Kwok Ka-ki, Alvin Yeung, Kenneth Leung and Dennis Kwok. Photo: inmediahk.net via CC 2.0.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said the resignations were not just in protest against the decision: “It’s no longer rule of law. It’s not even rule by law. It’s rule by decree,” the lawmaker – who has served for more than eight years – said. “From now on, anyone they [believe] to be politically incorrect, unpatriotic or simply not likeable to look at – they could just oust you using every means… They wouldn’t even let you run.”

She nonetheless urged Hongkongers to continue fighting. “It’s ok to lose. It’s not ok to quit. We [are] quitting this term, this legislature. We are not quitting Hong Kong’s fight.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied the legislation will become a “rubber stamp,” whilst the legislative head said that some pro-government lawmakers may disagree with bills.

No opposition

In August, the NPCSC decided to extend the sixth LegCo term for at least one year, as a solution to legislative lacuna resulting from Lam’s decision to delay the legislative polls – scheduled on September 6 – citing coronavirus fears.

The 19 pan-democrats later chose to remain in LegCo despite public opinion split on whether they should serve in the Beijing extended term of office. Eddie Chu and People Power’s Ray Chan bowed out on September 30 – the original end date of their terms – saying they would not serve in an “appointed legislature.” Former Civic Party member Tanya Chan also left her position citing personal and health reasons.

Medical sector lawmaker Pierre Chan and Cheng Chung-tai of Civic Passion – who did not join the Democracy Camp Caucus alliance – said they would remain in the legislature, despite the 19 democrats’ announcement.

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Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.