Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers resign en masse after Beijing requires patriotism for public office

Domestic News

A decision by Beijing led to the immediate disqualification of four pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong, and the remaining 15 opposition members soon resigned in protest.

Pan-democratic legislators announce that they will resign from the Hong Kong Legislative Council in protest of Beijing’s rules disqualifying four of their colleagues on November 11, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is losing all of its opposition voices, after four pro-democracy politicians were disqualified by a legal decision in Beijing, and the remaining 15 in the opposition camp said they would resign in protest. While not unexpected, the event is one of the most significant in the loss of Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing’s influence since the imposition of the national security law on July 1 this year.

What happened?

Per the National People’s Congress Observer, the “NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) adopted on Wednesday, November 11 a decision [in Chinese] on the qualifications for members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo), resulting in the immediate disqualification of four pro-democracy legislators: Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok, Kenneth Leung.”* The key paragraph of the decision, translated:

Any member of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region who, once confirmed in accordance with the law, endorses or supports the proposition of “Hong Kong independence,” refuses to recognize the State’s possession and exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, or who has sought interference in the affairs of the Region by a foreign country or an outside force, or has committed other acts endangering national security not in keeping with Hong Kong’s Basic Law and their vow of loyalty to the legal requirements and preconditions of the People’s Republic of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, shall immediately lose his or her qualification as a member of the Legislative Council.

In other words, you have to be a patriot — as Beijing defines it — to hold legislative office in Hong Kong. This, again, isn’t unexpected: At least 12 pro-democracy candidates for office were already disqualified over the summer. But this new, forceful dictate from Beijing has led to a backlash in Hong Kong’s legislature, the Guardian reports:

On Wednesday afternoon, the remaining 15 pro-democracy legislators appeared before the press…and announced they would hand in their resignation letters on Thursday.

“This is an actual act by Beijing to sound the death-knell of Hong Kong’s democracy fight,” said the legislator Claudia Mo [毛孟靜 Máo Mèngjìng Mou4 Maang6 Zing6]. “From now on, anyone they find to be politically incorrect or unpatriotic or simply not likeable to look at — they can just oust you.”

“Hong Kong law is now irrelevant. Beijing simply issues decrees,” commented Hong Kong–based lawyer Antony Dapiran, responding to legal scholar Jerome Cohen, who said that Beijing is “increasingly exercising direct ‘comprehensive control’ over Hong Kong.”

Read more on the latest crackdown in Hong Kong, and the city’s shrinking autonomy:

*Alvin Yeung 楊岳橋 Yáng Yuèqiáo / Joeng4 Ngok6 Kiu4

 Kwok Ka-ki 郭家麒 Guō Jiāqí / Gwok3 Gaa1 Kei4

 Dennis Kwok 郭榮鏗 Guō Róngkēng / Gwok3 Wing4 Hang1

 Kenneth Leung 梁繼昌 Liáng Jìchāng / Loeng4 Gai3 Coeng1