Two Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have been disqualified from holding their elected political offices after the government gazetted a law requiring oaths of loyalty from the city’s district councillors on Friday.

Tiffany Yuen and Lester Shum – who represented the constituencies of Tin Wan and Hoi Bun respectively – have been ousted from their elected offices, the government announced.

Tiffany Yuen Lester Shum
Tiffany Yuen and Lester Shum. Photo: Facebook.

The disqualifications follow a new law gazetted earlier on Friday which extended an oath of allegiance already required by the city’s public officers and civil servants to district councillors, the majority of whom are democrats.

Authorities referred to an earlier decision to disqualify the two from running in the now postponed and re-engineered Legislative Council elections as the basis for its decision.

“In accordance with… the amended District Councils Ordinance… they are disqualified from holding office since today (the day when the amended Ordinance takes effect)… their offices have become vacant since today,” a government statement read.

disqualified 2020 lawmakers election
Alvin Cheng, Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Tat Cheng, Kwok Ka-Ki, Joshua Wong, Kenneth Leung, Ventus Lau, Gwyneth Ho, Tiffany Yuen, Lester Shum, and Fergus Leung.

Returning officers had disqualified Yuen, Shum and 10 other pro-democracy candidates from running in the city’s Legislative Council elections last July, saying the 12 did not meet the requirements of upholding the Basic Law and pledging allegiance to the government.

Two other district councillors government among the group, Fergus Leung and Tat Cheng, had announced their resignation in recent weeks before the law was passed. The four had previously vowed to “serve until the last moment.”

‘Continued to serve’

Yuen and Shum were sentenced in early May to four and six months in prison over an unauthorised vigil for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre last year.

Both also face charges of “conspiracy to incite subversion” under the national security law alongside 45 other democrats over their participation in the legislative primary elections for the democratic camp.

Tiffany Yuen
Tiffany Yuen standing next to a slogan that reads “I’d rather die than not be free.” Photo: Facebook.

In response to her disqualification, Yuen’s office said she continued to serve her constituents “until the very last moment,” even from behind bars. “Although Tiffany may not be able to see everyone for a very long time, the changes she created will live on,” a statement on Friday read.

A representative from Shum’s office, meanwhile, declined to comment on his disqualification, saying his office was already closed.

‘Administered by patriots’

Around 30 pro-democracy district councillors have quit since the new law requiring an oath of loyalty was announced in late February, a sign the city’s pool of pro-democracy politicians is dwindling amid what critics have decried as a Beijing-led crackdown on political dissent.

The government said the law, formally gazetted on Friday, was necessary for the city’s stability. “The Ordinance is important and conducive to upholding the constitutional order of the HKSAR, ensuring ‘Hong Kong being administered by patriots’, and would contribute to the steadfast and successful implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” a statement read.

carrie lam oath ceremony civil servants
Top officials take oaths of allegiance in December 2020. File photo: GovHK screenshot.

A total of 12 district councillor seats have been vacated in May. The vacancies included seats of Andrew Wan and other democrats currently remanded behind bars who have resigned.

The city’s pro-democracy district councillors are seen as the last foothold for the city’s pro-democracy politicians after the democratic camp in its legislature resigned en-masse last November following the disqualification of four of their colleagues. Most are now remanded in custody over the democratic legislative primaries.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.