Sixteen more local-level councillors have been ousted from office after the government deemed their oaths of allegiance to be “invalid” on Friday. The new round of disqualifications brings the total number of councillors to be stripped of their elected positions since the start of the oath-taking arrangements to 33.

The 16 were among 50 councillors from neighbourhoods in the New Territories who took their oaths of allegiance on Monday. They had been required to provide more information from the government, who expressed “doubts” over their oaths’ validity by Thursday.

Caspar Tsui district council members oath-taking
Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui at an oath-taking ceremony for district councillors on September 10, 2021. Photo: GovHK.

“After considering the written replies from the DC members concerned and all relevant information, the oath administrator, based on the principles laid down by the Interpretation and the relevant legal provisions, determined that the oaths taken by 16 DC members were invalid,” a statement read on Friday, referring to Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law provision governing official oath-taking.

All councillors who were requested to submit “more information” have been ousted since the oath-taking ceremonies began.

Councillors who have been ousted – click to view

Tai Po District Council
1. Mr Chan Chun-chit, Richard
2. Ms Chan Wai-ka, Olive
3. Mr So Tat-leung
Sai Kung District Council
1. Mr Lee Yin-ho, Ryan
2. Mr Lee Ka-yui
3. Mr Or Yiu-lam, Ricky
4. Ms Wong Cheuk-nga
Sha Tin District Council
1. Mr Li Chi-wang
2. Mr Shek William
3. Mr Lai Tsz-yan
4. Mr Lo Tak-ming
5. Mr Wong Ho-fung
6. Mr Ng Kam-hung
7. Ms Ng Ting-lam, Kudama
8. Mr Wong Hok-lai
9. Mr Cheng Tsuk-man

The government introduced mandatory oaths of allegiances for the city’s local-level councillors earlier this year, after requiring all civil servants to take the same pledge shortly after Beijing’s passing of the national security law last summer.

The introduction of the oaths, and the ensuing rumours that salary and benefits would be recouped from certain councillors who faced disqualification, prompted over 200 to resign ahead of the ceremonies.

‘Pro-independence slogans’

A letter seen by HKFP included government questions over councillors’ participation in the informal election polls held by the democratic camp last July, where they attempted to win seats in the legislature, as well as the presence of pro-democracy slogans displayed in their offices.

glory to hong kong police barrier outside legco July 2020
Scrubbed protester slogan “Glory to Hong Kong” on police barrier surrounding Legco. Photo: Rhoda Kwan/HKFP

“You displayed slogans/items/notices containing meanings with pro-independence, subversive, or secessionist connotations, including the slogan ‘liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.’ How does the above action fit the legal requirement of upholding the Basic Law and being loyal to the SAR?” the letter read.

The slogan, which gained prominence during the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest, has since been criminalised by the city’s courts under the Beijing-enacted security law. The first person to be tried under the legislation was found guilty of “inciting secession” and terrorist activities after he drove his motorcycle into a group of policemen flying a flag displaying the slogan.

‘Not satisfied’

Some ousted councillors took to social media to announce their official disqualifications.

Richard Chan, who served the Lam Tsuen Valley constituency of the Tai Po District, announced on Facebook that he received an email from Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui informing him that his oath had been deemed invalid because the secretary “was not satisfied” with Chan’s answers.

“Based on the letter I sent to you on October 4, the explanations you submitted, and the relevant legal regulations, I am not satisfied that you comply with the legal requirement of upholding the basic law and being loyal to PRC and the SAR,” Chan quoted Tsui as writing in the official response.

District Council election 2019
Hongkongers line up to vote in the 2019 District Council election. Photo: GovHK.

“Nothing unexpected, I have been officially disqualified from office,” another councillor Valerie Wong, who served as the councillor for the Hau Tak constituency in Sai Kung, wrote on her Facebook page following Friday’s announcement.

The district council race was the only fully democratic election in the city. They were seen as the opposition’s last political foothold after lawmakers stepped down from the legislature last year in protest over the disqualification of four of their colleagues.

Correction 10/10: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 100 councillors had previously resigned – in fact, over 200 quit ahead of the oath-taking.

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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.