Seven Hong Kong pro-democracy district councillors have lost their seats, after the government ruled their oaths to bear allegiance to the city and uphold the Basic Law were “invalid.”

The government announced on Wednesday evening that seven of the 24 district council members who pledged allegiance last Friday had made “invalid oaths.” They included Clarisse Yeung and Pakkin Leung of the Wan Chai District Council and Michael Pang of the Southern District Council. Oaths taken by Eastern District Council’s Wei Siu-lik, So Yat-hang, Lancelot Chan and Anna Lai were also said to be illegitimate.

district councillor disqualified
From left to right: Clarisse Yeung, So Yat-hang, Wei Siu-lik, Pakkin Leung, Anna Lai, Michael Pang, Lancelot Chan. Photos: HKFP, Pakkin Leung, via CC 4.0 and via Facebook.

They were among a group of 24 district council members who became the first to swear allegiance under the administration of Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui. The minister had said he “had doubts” over the validity of some pledges and requested additional information from seven councillors.

In nullifying their oaths, the government said Tsui had considered written replies from those concerned. Without specifying the reasons, the authorities said Tsui’s decision was based on the principles laid down by an interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law by China’s top legislative body and other relevant laws.

‘Arbitrary’ disqualification

Pakkin Leung of the Wan Chai District Council criticised the disqualification as “arbitrary.” He said he had answered questions from the government, but the authorities gave no explanation as to why his oath was invalid.

Leung, who became known after filming the dramatic police storming of Prince Edward MTR station on August 31, 2019, thanked Hongkongers who voted in the 2019 election, which saw a historic landslide victory for the pro-democracy camp.

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Residents celebrate after Junius Ho lost his seat at the 2019 District Council election. Photo: Galileo Cheng/HKFP.

“I think I have done my utmost as an elected councillor to defend the dignity of the sacred votes cast by electors… facing absurdity is truly exhausting, but compared to many people, I was very lucky already,” Leung wrote on Facebook, adding he would retain the right to appeal the decision.

Another disqualified councillor was the Democratic Party’s So Yat-hang, who was inclined to take part in upcoming elections, despite a Beijing-led overhaul that drastically reduced the ratio of directly-elected representatives in the legislature.

Sharing a news article about his disqualification, So wrote on Facebook that people should “keep going”: “There are still people who can remain. [We] need to keep trying any possible methods.”

Loyalty to gov’t

The oath-taking requirement for district councillors was part of a new law passed in May, which extended an existing loyalty pledge required for senior government officials, civil servants, lawmakers and judges to other public officers.

district council members oath-taking
An oath-taking ceremony for Hong Kong Island District Councillors on September 10, 2021. Photo: GovHK.

The district advisory body has been regarded as the last opposition force in the government, after pan-democratic lawmakers quit en masse last November. But since the new stipulation came into force, 260 of the 388 pro-democracy district councillors have stepped down, while eight lost their seats because they are in custody or have left the city.

Two of the ousted councillors, Clarisse Yeung and Michael Pang, are facing trial under the national security law. They stand accused of conspiring with 45 democrats to commit “subversion” by organising and taking part in an unofficial legislative primary election in July last year.

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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.