The government’s decision to disqualify four opposition lawmakers was “constitutional, legal and reasonable,” Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said on Sunday, adding that Beijing had the ultimate right to interpret and monitor the implementation of the Basic Law.
In statements made in his official blog, the city’s number two official said Beijing’s decision was in accordance with the principles of one country, two systems and did not constitute political oppression: “Any legislator has the right to express different opinions, including the right to monitor the government. This has always been and will remain the case.”
“However, exercising these rights do not mean there are no limits. Inviting foreign countries to place sanctions on your own country, on Hong Kong, disregarding the interests of the country and Hong Kong – this is absolutely unacceptable,” the chief secretary wrote.
Opposition lawmakers Kenneth Leung, Kwok-Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung were disqualified as legislators with immediate effect by the Hong Kong government last Wednesday. China’s top legislative body in Beijing had earlier that day granted the government the power to unseat any legislator it deemed to have violated their oaths of allegiance under Article 104 of the Basic Law.
The four were disqualified from running for re-election in the now-postponed Legislative Council (LegCo) elections in July after returning officers alleged that comments made by the four amounted to calling on the US to place sanctions on Hong Kong officials. They had pledged they would cease any calls for foreign involvement following the passing of the security law in late June.
On the day they were ousted, 15 incumbent pro-democracy lawmakers announced they would collectively resign in protest, leaving the city’s legislature effectively without an opposition.
Separately, the government issued a statement over the weekend “vehemently condemning groundless accusations” from foreign governments concerning last Wednesday’s disqualifications.
Criticism from foreign states were “politically motivated with the ulterior motive to undermine the relationship between the Central Authorities and the HKSAR under One Country, Two Systems,” a government spokesperson said, calling such comments “flagrant interference” in China’s internal affairs and a breach of “the basic guiding principles of international relations.”
The government urged foreign governments to “cease to interfere in HKSAR affairs in any manner.”
Saturday’s statement also defended the four’s disqualification, saying they had been legally found by returning officers to be in violation of their pledges of allegiance to Hong Kong and Beijing under the Basic Law in July. “It would be illogical to allow persons who were ineligible to contest in a LegCo election to continue to discharge their duties as members of the LegCo,” it read.
The government’s statement follows fierce criticism from foreign governments last week. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted Beijing for “crushing democracy in Hong Kong” while British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab accused Beijing of breaching its international obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration which set the terms of the territory’s handover.