Hong Kong’s legislature now has no effective opposition after 15 lawmakers resigned in protest. A new bill allows the city’s executive to expel lawmakers without going through the courts.
Fifteen pro-democracy lawmakers resigned from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on Wednesday in protest at four other legislators being expelled. They were the last remaining pro-democracy lawmakers.
“Today we will resign from our positions, because our partners, our colleagues have been disqualified by the central government’s ruthless move,” Wu Chi-wai, convener of the pro-democracy camp, said at a news conference announcing their resignation.
“Although we are facing a lot of difficulties in the coming future for the fight of democracy, but we will never, never give up,” he said.
Wu said they will hand in their resignation letters on Thursday
Which lawmakers were disqualified?
Hong Kong’s city executive earlier disqualified four lawmakers for “national security” reasons.
It came immediately after Beijing passed a new bill that allows the government to expel legislators without recourse to the courts.
Those fired were the pro-democracy lawmakers Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung. The city government said they had endangered national security, without offering further details.
The four were previously disqualified from running for re-election as authorities found their pledge of allegiance to Hong Kong was not sincere. This was prior to the elections being delayed, ostensibly due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dennis Kwok spoke to reporters, telling them it was an honor to be disqualified for fighting for democracy.
“In terms of legality and constitutionality, obviously from our point of view this is clearly in breach of basic law and our rights to participate in public affairs, and a failure to observe due process,” Kwok said.
What were the reactions to the expulsions?
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the disqualifications were “constitutional, legal, reasonable and necessary.”
Amnesty International decried the new laws, saying it was “yet another example of the Chinese central government’s campaign to silence dissent in the city by any means.”
Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said: “Once again, Hong Kong has allowed its laws and its legislature to be bypassed as Beijing makes up the rules as it goes along. Bulldozing through arbitrary decisions via the Chinese government makes a mockery of the rule of law.”
What is the new law?
Lawmakers can be expelled if they are considered to pose a risk to national security, if they seek the city’s independence, if they refuse to accept China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, or if they seek foreign interference.
The law was passed at the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which convened on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Opposition lawmakers in the 70-seat city legislature had threatened to resign en masse if any pro-democracy legislators were disqualified from the Legislative Council, or Legco.
Reuters/ AP/ AFP/ Deutsche Welle