Five more pro-democracy district councillors have announced their resignation after local media reported that as many as 200 district councillors may be disqualified even if they agree to swear a new oath of allegiance this month.

The five Democratic Party members from the Tuen Mun District quit after local media reported that scores of councillors would be disqualified for past actions deemed to be in violation of their oaths of loyalty to the Hong Kong government.

Democrat primary election
Photo: Studio Incendo.

These actions may include having taken part in an unofficial democratic primary election last July and having signed an online petition last year calling for Hong Kong to lose its special trade status, according to HK01 citing sources.

Displaying the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” in offices may also reportedly be grounds for disqualification.

Many district councillors opened up their offices to serve as polling stations during the primary, which saw over 600,000 Hongkongers cast a vote. A total of 47 pro-democracy figures involved with the event were charged in February with “conspiracy to commit subversion” under the national security law. Only 12 have since been allowed bail pending trial.

‘Great risk’

Josephine Chan, chairperson of the Tuen Mun district council who represents the Siu Hong constituency, told Democratic Party members on Wednesday evening that failure to resign entailed a “great risk,” according to InMedia.

The chairperson announced her decision to quit on Facebook on Wednesday evening. “After careful examination of media reports. Josephine has already sent in her resignation,” her post read. She asked the public to forgive her and vowed to keep doing her utmost to serve the community.

Josephine Chan
Tuen Mun District Council Chairperson Josephine Chan at a district meeting. Photo: Tuen Mun District Council Screenshot via Facebook.

“I originally wanted to persevere and not retreat, but I’m sorry, everyone,” councillor Catherine Wong wrote on her Facebook page.

Three other party members, Cary Lo, Alfred Lai and Ho Hang-mui, also announced they were quitting.

Dozens of pro-democracy councillors have resigned since the imposition of the national security law a year ago and a new requirement for all public officials to swear an oath of allegiance to the government from this month.

Officials have said the oaths legislation will not be retroactive, but authorities will consider the past conduct of district councillors when reviewing whether the pledge of allegiance is sincere.

Pan-democrats won a landslide victory in November 2019 to win control of all but one of the city’s 18 district councils, during months of pro-democracy protests and unrest. The councils are the last political foothold for the democratic camp after its members quit the higher-level Legislative Council in protest at the disqualification of four of their colleagues.

Rights group disbands

The diminishing pro-democracy representation in the city comes as more and more civil society groups are disbanding.

On Tuesday the Civil Rights Observer announced it was ceasing operations, citing a lack of resources and Hong Kong’s “current climate.”

civil rights observer
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The group was founded following the 2014 Umbrella Movement “to protect and promote civil and political rights” in Hong Kong. Its website and social media pages have been deleted.

It was the 13th civil society organisation to disband within the last two weeks, according to StandNews.

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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.