As the central and local governments tighten national security measures, the requirement for civil servants to pledge allegiance to Hong Kong and uphold the Basic Law is inescapable. Yet the arrangement also presents serious implications for those who refuse to sign the declaration or if they violate the terms after doing so. The authorities should clearly explain and justify the rules for its 180,000 staff members and spell out the consequences of non-compliance. The spirit of the oath was embedded in the civil service code and the Basic Law even before the enactment of the national security law . Those rules stipulate that civil servants shall serve the chief executive and the government of the day with loyalty and to the best of their ability, regardless of their political beliefs. They should also ensure that their participation in political party activities does not compromise, or be seen to compromise, their impartiality and political neutrality in their official capacity, or cause any embarrassment to the government. Officials argue that civil servants have all along been expected to abide by the rules anyway. True as that is, the required declaration to be signed by February goes beyond mere formalities. Those who refuse to sign will be considered to be lacking commitment to serve faithfully and face being sacked. This has raised questions about whether new terms of employment are being introduced and if these contradict the protection afforded to civil servants under the Basic Law prior to Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. There are also concerns that those who sign the declaration may face criminal liability should their future actions be seen to be in breach of their pledges. High-ranking officials take oath pledging allegiance to Hong Kong and Basic Law One staff union formed during Hong Kong’s social unrest in 2019 and critical of the government has already announced its decision to dissolve in the wake of the requirement. The debate over whether civil servants can freely express their views, including in interviews with media outlets dubbed “anti-China” , may further give the impression that individual freedoms are being eroded. Officials did not say what “anti-China” meant when responding to questions from a lawmaker, but agreed such interviews should be avoided. Those recruited following the enactment of the national security law in July are required to sign the declaration. Incumbent senior civil servants and political appointees had earlier taken their oaths of allegiance. There may be stronger resistance at lower levels, though. Ultimately, those who oppose the declaration may quit or be removed. Whether government operations will be compromised remains to be seen. The authorities should monitor the response closely and better explain what is expected of civil servants under the national security law.