District councillors in Hong Kong could be made to swear allegiance to the city soon, as a top official said the government will submit an amendment bill detailing oath-taking arrangements for public officers after Lunar New Year.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang told the Legislative Council (LegCo) on Thursday that the government heard views expressed by lawmakers and members of the public about requiring district councillors to pledge loyalty to the city and vow to uphold the Basic Law.

Erick Tsang
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang. File photo: GovHK.

He said that, after looking into relevant legislation, the government concluded that the representatives for the 18 districts in the city should be considered as public officers, who must take an oath of allegiance under Article 6 of the Beijing-imposed national security law.

“In light of opinions from different sectors, the SAR government immediately launched relevant study and think district councillors should be categorised as public officers mentioned in Article 6 of the national security law,” Tsang said.

The bill will be submitted to LegCo for scrutiny after the Chinese New Year in February, the minister estimated.

Tsang said the amendment aims to implement Beijing’s interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law related to the oath-taking requirement for legislators. The bill will set out specific requirements and arrangement for swearing allegiance, including who to administer the oath and legal consequences for breaching the vow.

17 district councils joint meeting national security law congressional platform
District councillors opposing the national security law in June, 2020. Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Local media have cited sources as saying China’s top legislature is seeking to stamp out the influence of district councillors to further suppress opposition in the city. Currently, the 479 District Council seats are predominantly occupied by the pro-democracy camp, after a historic landslide victory against pro-establishment candidates in the 2019 District Council Election.

Civil servants in Hong Kong are now obliged to declare loyalty to the city, as the government looks into expanding the requirement to temporary and short-term contractors. Those who support or promote Hong Kong independence, refuse to acknowledge China’s sovereignty over the city or express opinions contrary to the government’s stance in their official capacity, would be deemed to breach the declaration.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.