Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians Andrew Wan and Andy Chui have resigned as district councillors after more than two months in custody awaiting trial under the national security law. Wan said democrats face oppression “on all fronts.”
At least 17 democratic district councillors have now quit for various reasons since pan-democrats scored a dramatic victory over pro-establishment candidates in November 2019 elections, securing control of all but one of the councils.
Beijing has since announced a sweeping electoral overhaul which critics say is intended to exclude pan-democratic politicians from power.
Democratic Party member Wan, 51, announced on Monday that his term of office at the Kwai Tsing District Council would end on Tuesday. Chui, 53, said his resignation from the Eastern District Council would take effect on Monday.
The pair are among a group of 47 democrats charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” for organising or taking part in an unofficial legislative primary election last July.
Wan said he could not continue to discharge his duties because he is facing the national security charge and nine other criminal cases. He and most other defendants in the case have been in custody since February 28, with only 11 of the 47 granted bail.
“Following the mass resignation of the pro-democracy camp from the Legislative Council last year, quitting as a district councillor this time means my 18 years of public office have come to an end,” Wan wrote in a letter addressed to his constituents in Shek Yam and Hongkongers in general.
“Hong Kong’s current situation is unprecedentedly bad. Democratic forces are facing oppression on all fronts… please, everyone, safeguard the truth, reject lies. I will join the team again as soon as possible,” he added in the message on his Facebook page.
Chui announced his departure a few hours after Wan. The security law detainee said he “had no choice” but to quit the district council, following his detention at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre.
“Over the past five years, my office has become a place for people to gather, for children to play… I have no other choice but to leave the council today, [I] sincerely hope everyone will understand,” Chui said.
At least eight democrats have now stepped down as district councillors while in detention awaiting trial under the security legislation. Another “subversion” detainee Henry Wong left the Yuen Long District Council on Tuesday last week, according to the government advisory body’s website.
At least another nine district councillors have submitted their resignations before an oath-taking bill is approved. Some stated explicitly that they would not take the loyalty pledge, while others cited health and personal reasons.
On Sunday, two Tai Po district councillors Lin Kok-cheung and Max Wu said they decided to quit ahead of the law that may be passed within days.
The bill – which will be debated in the legislature on Wednesday – requires public officers, including district councillors, to join top government officials, lawmakers and judges in swearing allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and vowing to uphold the Basic Law. Anyone deemed to have breached the oath will face a five-year election ban.
Wu said he felt space in the council has been “completely blocked” and he could no longer fulfil his political goals. Lin said the question of whether to leave or stay was a tough decision and he hoped people could support those who decided to remain.
Meanwhile, district councillors Stanley Lui, Leticia Wong, Lee Kwan-chak and William Li have declared they are leaving the pro-democracy Civic Party. The embattled group earlier lost a handful of key members including ex-legislators Alvin Yeung, Jeremy Tam and Kwok Ka-ki, who are among those facing subversion charges. The former members had called for the party to disband.