Beijing has condemned the mass resignation of democrats from the legislature after four pro-democracy lawmakers were ousted by the government.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) said the move is a blatant challenge to the central government’s power and the authority of the Basic Law.

Democrats resign
Fifteen Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers announce to collectively resign after Beijing passed a decision giving the local authorities powers to oust four democrats with immediate effect. Photo: Democratic Party.

“The farce completely exposed how some opposition lawmakers disregard citizens for their own political interests. It shows their stubbornly confrontational attitude against the central government. They are, in fact, challenging the Basic Law and the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress [NPCSC]’s interpretation and decision on this matter, also disputing the central authorities’ overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong,” the statement read.

Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Dennis Kwok from the pro-democracy Civic Party, as well as Kenneth Leung from the accountancy functional constituency were ousted from the legislature on Wednesday after a ruling from Beijing saying that lawmakers must be loyal and not harm national security.

Dennis Kwok disqualify Legislative Council
Hong Kong lawmaker Dennis Kwok in his office on November 11, 2020, after he was unseated from the legislature. Photo: Dennis Kwok, via Facebook.

The spokesperson said the NPCSC had been “smeared” by democrats as creating “political oppression” simply for exercising its constitutional power, whilst democrats – they claimed – were manipulating their lawmaker duties as political tools.

They warned democrats that it would be an unwise move if they wanted to mobilise crowds to mass protests or appeal for foreign intervention with their resignation, adding that both Beijing – and Hong Kong government – have a strong will to stabilise the city and restore social order.

Lam ‘excited’ by new legislature

At the press conference to announce ousting the four lawmakers on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters that she was “excited” that bills will pass more efficiently at the legislature in the future.

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The HKMAO similarly said that the operations of the Legislative Council (LegCo) will not be impacted by the resignation but the body will perform more constructively without the troublemakers: “We wish lawmakers who remain will act proactively in controlling the pandemic, reviving the economy [and] relieving the burden of people’s livelihoods by performing their duties in accordance with law,” it read. “[They shall] work with all sectors of society in solidarity to safeguard national security, protect the overall interests of Hong Kong and its long-term prosperity and stability so as to ensure One Country, Two Systems is implemented smoothly.”

The statement also made reference to some non-pro-Beijing lawmakers who decided to stay, without naming them: “We notice that some lawmakers labelled as the ‘opposition’ were not kidnapped into the ‘mass resignation’ battleground, but opted to continue performing their lawmaker duties. We should endorse their rational decision.”

Medical sector lawmaker Pierre Chan and Cheng Chung-tai of Civic Passion said they would remain in the legislature after democrats announced their resignations.

Cheng Chung-tai
Cheng Chung-tai. Photo: In-Media via CC2.0.

Following the postponement of the legislative elections – with authorities citeing public health concerns owing to the Covid-19 pandemic – the NPCSC announced on August 11 that the current term shall be extended for at least another year. The city’s leader said the interim legislature is not equivalent to an extension of tenure for all lawmakers.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien who supports Beijing’s decision, criticised Lam’s move. He said this week’s disqualification, which happened months later, has attracted unnecessary speculation.

‘Mutual destruction camp’

Meanwhile, a day after democrats announced they would quit, representatives from the pro-Beijing party DAB and other pro-establishment groups held banners and placards outside the Legislative Council to voice support for Beijing’s resolution.

They handed in letters addressed to Lam, saying they backed the resolution which unseated lawmakers from the “mutual destruction camp.”

pro beijing legco democrats resign dq
Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“The NPCSC decision helps to eliminate people who harm the interest of the country and Hong Kong from becoming Legislative Council members… ensuring One Country, Two Systems is developing towards the right direction,” the DAB said in a statement.

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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.