HONG KONG – China on Wednesday carried a purse from its elected offices to remove one of the final rounds of democracy and discontent in Hong Kong, forcing the expulsion of four pro-democracy legislators, leaving the rest of the opposition Vowed to resign. Collectively.
The departure will reopen the city’s political landscape, which has since been revised. China enforces a comprehensive national security law on Hong Kong This summer gave the authorities broad rights to crack down on any resistance. They mark the intensity of a campaign that has placed Hong Kong’s global reputation as a bastion for lodge-faire regulation, freedom of speech and the rule of law at risk.
The goal of democratically elected lawmakers comes at a time when the United States, which has recently opposed Hong Kong’s treatment by China and implemented sanctions, is distracted by its own conflicts over the US presidential election.
In Hong Kong in recent months, Beijing-backed officials have arrested pro-democracy leaders and activists as they have pledged to bring Hong Kong to the heel and end. Protests that have surrounded much more Chinese territory than last year. He has challenged Hong Kong’s independent court system and pressured news outlets that attack with a defiant voice.
Their target on Wednesday was Hong Kong’s legislature, the Legislative Council, where a group of pro-democracy lawmakers have vigorously argued that Beijing’s campaign threatens to erase Hong Kong’s status as a global, open city.
Beijing officials on Wednesday moved to silence voices that underlined the broad powers that they had delegated to their representatives in Hong Kong’s government to remove them from office.
City officials then voted out four legislators – Denis Kwok, Kwok Ka-k, Kenneth Leung and Alvin Yeung from the Legislative Council. Hours after his expulsion, the remaining 15 members of his block said they were stepping into solidarity.
“There is power in unity!” Members of the pro-democracy camp made a ruckus by holding hands in a conference hall in the Legislative Council building. One of the legislators, Wu Chi-wai, told reporters that he would tender his resignation in protest on Thursday.
“Under totalitarianism, the road to democracy will be extremely long and arduous, but we will not be completely defeated by its pressure,” Mr. Wu said. “We will inevitably find new avenues.”
Lawmakers said they believed that the legislature would now have to compromise the power of the government so much that it would have to work outside the system to exclude the opposition.
“Many people would consider this day to be a black day. It is difficult for me to say that it is not, “one of the four MPs to remove Kwok Ka-ki.” “As long as our resolve to fight for freedom, equality and justice remains intact, one day we will see a return to the core values we cherish.”
Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government appeared to welcome the resignation, which would give it a lot more independent to pursue its agenda. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam rejected suggestions that it would be pushed through policies backed by Beijing’s supporters if the absence of opposition lawmakers stigmatized the legislature.
“Of course, we want the Legislative Council to pass the bills that we propose. We all feel more excited when they can be passed in an efficient way, ”she said. “As the executive branch, we work in the hope that the council will support and pass our bills.”
Hong Kong has never been a standard-bearer for democratic ideals. Its top leader, the chief executive, is appointed in a process controlled by Beijing. Half of the 70 members of the Legislative Council are elected by groups from functional constituencies that represent various industries and other establishment groups.
But the council, nicknamed Lekoko, was one of the most visible signs that Hong Kong remained isolated from mainland China, where the Communist Party dominates the government and dissent is increasingly silenced. Many seats are directly elected by the public, helping give the pro-democracy camp a large-scale minority and a platform to express their views for the establishment.
The council also stands as a symbol of “one country, two systems”, a legal framework designed to preserve democratic freedom in the former British colony, since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 . That structure allowed Hong Kong to protect economic freedom. Personal freedom in the rest of China. also called Universal suffrage finallyA major target of pro-democracy advocates.
Now the design is under attack. Chinese officials have Freedom challenged Of Hong Kong’s judiciary. The city’s press freedom is Get under pressure, Including Jimmy Lai’s arrest in August, Pro-democracy media tycoon. The National Security Act, which China imposed on Hong Kong this summer, gave authorities broad powers to target protests and dissent.
Chinese officials are now taking aim at the Legislative Council.
Last summer, weeks after the National Security Act came into force, the Hong Kong government Postponed an election Set for a year until September, pro-democracy lawmakers criticized it as a naked attempt to avoid defeat in elections.
Before the adjournment, the government also forbade four MPs who were removed on Wednesday From running for re-election, Alleging that he would indiscriminately vote for legislative proposals and support US sanctions on officials responsible for rights abuses in Hong Kong. Despite the disqualification, they were Allowed to hold office.
On Wednesday, Chinese officials described a new measure designed to keep the Legislative Council in line. The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body, said that legislators supporting Hong Kong’s independence refused to recognize the country’s sovereignty over the city, seeking foreign or external forces to intervene in domestic affairs. Are or engage in those actions at risk National Security will face immediate disqualification.
Lawmakers, who fail to meet the statutory requirements to uphold basic law, Hong Kong’s local constitution, and “loyalty to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China” will also be removed.
The liaison office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong, Beijing’s top envoy to the city, said the rules would ensure that politicians “fulfill their constitutional responsibility of loyalty to the country.”
The move is not entirely unprecedented. In 2016 and 2017, Hong Kong Six pro-democracy legislators removed Who organized forms of protest while taking their oath of office. But those steps required both local court decisions and legal review by the Chinese Standing Committee. The new rules give the Hong Kong government more leeway to remove opposition MPs.
As other places of dissent have closed, pro-democracy legislators have become increasingly active. Establishment MPs had complained about the tactics used by the opposition camp, even demanding prosecution under the National Security Act.
A former Hong Kong government official, now a senior adviser to Beijing, Lau Siu-kai said that the central government had become frustrated with the strategy of the pro-democracy camp in the legislature, preventing important work such as issues The weak economy and the coronovirus epidemic.
“I think Beijing does not want to wait to see if the opposition will actually change its stance because the circumstances are so severe that Beijing wants to act as soon as possible,” he said.
Earlier this month, Police arrested eight pro-democracy MPs In a heated meeting in May, when there were disputes over control of a major committee. No establishment lawmen were arrested; The government stopped a private prosecution against one of them which dragged an opposition MLA to the ground.
One of the evicted MPs, Denis Kwok, had controlled that committee and widely criticized Hong Kong and Beijing officials over delaying the strategy, including slowing down the idea of some bills. Despite the disqualification, he said he has no regrets over his actions.
“There is no point in doing this job if you can’t do it properly,” he said.