The governments in Hong Kong and Beijing may be preparing for an opposition majority in the next legislature. That’s why Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is drawing a line in the sand after the phenomenal voter turnout for the opposition’s symbolic “primary” at the weekend. Any attempt by opposition lawmakers, she said, to veto the government’s annual budget or other important bills would be seen as an act of subversion against state power, in breach of the new national security law. While this is no doubt a warning, it clearly shows that Lam and even Beijing have concluded they may have to accept a likely opposition majority in the Legislative Council for the first time in Hong Kong history. The fact is the authorities can only disqualify so many radicals or well-known localists without invalidating or delegitimising the Legco elections in September. But come election day, many voters will not be casting ballots for individual candidates or their policy platforms, but their ideological camps, just as they did with the district council elections last November. The government can’t disqualify every localist on the tickets. What Lam is warning against is not only vetoing the government budget, which is bad enough, but a constitutional coup. The opposition has made no bones about exploiting Article 52 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, to get rid of her. The chief executive may dissolve Legco if “it refuses to pass a budget or any other important bill”, but under the article, if “the new [Legco] still refuses to pass the original bill in dispute”, she must resign. Pompeo urges ‘free and fair’ Hong Kong vote after China warning While officials could fudge what “an important bill” means in the article, the government’s annual budget has no such ambiguity to exploit. Of course, the opposition plan is no more than a long shot. They will have to win a majority in September, then veto the next budget. Once Legco is dissolved, they or their comrades will have to win a majority again in the reconstituted legislature and reject the original bill a second time. Given the level of infighting within the opposition we have already witnessed over the primary, such a “coup” will be tough to carry out. This doesn’t mean an opposition majority won’t try to scupper as many government bills as they can while the government dare not dissolve Legco or apply the security law. A game of chicken is on.