Yesterday, 15 pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers announced they will resign. The move comes after the Chinese territory’s legislature ousted four of them. One legislator says the move could sound the “death knell” for democracy there.
For years, the former British colony of Hong Kong has been a financial hub and a stronghold of Western-style civil liberties. But China’s government has increasingly tightened its control over the rogue region. A Chinese national security law imposed last year in Hong Kong has already alarmed the international community. (See “China Exerts More Control.”)
The lawmakers’ mass departure will leave Hong Kong’s legislature with only pro-Beijing lawmakers. They already made up a majority—but now they can pass bills favored by the mainland without much resistance.
The lawmakers will submit resignation letters today. Their announcement came just hours after the now Chinese-led Hong Kong government said it was banning four legislators—Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung. Those removals came after a committee passed a resolution saying that any lawmaker who supports Hong Kong’s independence, refuses to acknowledge China’s sovereignty, threatens national security, or asks outside forces to interfere should be disqualified.
“Today we will resign from our positions because our partners, our colleagues have been disqualified by the central government’s ruthless move,” says Wu Chi-wai, the leader of the pro-democracy camp.
During the news conference, the lawmakers held hands and chanted, “Hong Kong add oil! Together we stand!” The phrase “add oil” is a direct translation of a Chinese expression of encouragement, possibly similar to the biblical idea of “anointing [a] head with oil.” (Psalm 23:5)
In recent months, Chinese officials have increasingly clamped down on Hong Kong. Last year, the government imposed a harsh national security law after anti-government protests rocked the city. China’s lawmakers have used the law to crack down on opposition voices.
“In terms of legality and constitutionality . . . this is clearly in breach of the Basic Law . . . and a failure to observe due process,” says ousted lawmaker Kwok.
In response, Australia, Great Britain, the United States, and other countries have leveled sanctions, suspended treaties, or taken other measures to deal with the Hong Kong problem.
Beijing rejects any criticism. Instead, officials lash out at foreign interference in Chinese politics. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin says the banning of the four lawmakers was necessary to maintain rule of law and constitutional order in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defends the lawmakers’ removal too. She insists legislators must act properly and that the city needs patriots—but also declares that diverse opinion is welcome.
(Hong Kong’s pro-democracy legislators pose for a photo before a press conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday, November 11, 2020. AP/Vincent Yu)