Former pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok has announced he is quitting politics, less than two weeks after he and three other legislators were controversially ousted from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) following a decision by Beijing.

“It’s been a tormenting few months,” the former Civic Party member said in an interview with NowTV on Saturday. He said he had expected to be disqualified since April, when China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office first publicly criticised his filibustering in LegCo’s House Committee.

Dennis Kwok disqualify Legislative Council
Dennis Kwok. File Photo: Dennis Kwok, via Facebook.

While his removal after eight years is mainly related to his role in lobbying the US government to impose sanctions on Hong Kong, Kwok said he had no regrets. “Life is like a chess game, you don’t regret making a move,” he said. “I had to do what I thought through at the time.”

The former lawmaker met politicians on a trip to the US in August last year, at the height of the pro-democracy protests. The following September, Kwok co-signed a letter to US congressmen and senators seeking bipartisan support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which includes provisions for sanctions on city officials.

Kwok was among 12 pro-democracy candidates banned in July this year from running in the LegCo election scheduled for September. The government later postponed the elections for a year, citing concerns at the Covid-19 pandemic, and Kwok was initially allowed to stay on in his seat.

Dennis kwok announcing his departure from HK politics.
Dennis Kwok announced he would be leaving politics behind. Photo: NowTV screenshot.

But in mid-November he and three other pro-democracy lawmakers were ousted from the legislature by the Hong Kong government, after Beijing’s legislature voted to oust legislators who promote or support Hong Kong’s independence, appeal to foreign governments to “interfere”, refuse to accept China’s rule over the city or endanger national security.

All 15 other pro-democracy legislators resigned in sympathy, leaving the legislature with no formal opposition presence.

“Ever since I was disqualified from running on July 30, I have accepted that I won’t be able to join any election in the future. Parliamentary politics has become obsolete and I have to let young people decide how to move forward,” Kwok said.

“I don’t see what I can still do in politics, so I should just leave this behind. The most regrettable aspect of all this was the enormous pressure my family had to face, which made me think quitting could also be a good thing.”

Kowk won a seat in LegCo in 2012 as a representative for the functional constituency representing the legal profession, taking over from Civic Party veteran Margaret Ng. As a moderate democrat, Kwok said he had always advocated a rational and practical implementation of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong.

Before his relationship with the Hong Kong government turned frosty, he was appointed to various public offices, serving as a member of the Urban Renewal Authority and the Competition Commission.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.