Hong Kong opposition lawmakers to resign en masse over Beijing resolution empowering local government to bypass courts and unseat politicians
- Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai says Beijing has completely abandoned the Basic Law
- Announcement comes after four opposition lawmakers were disqualified under decision by National People’s Congress Standing Committee
All of Hong Kong’s opposition lawmakers will resign together after China’s top legislative body passed a resolution on Wednesday giving local authorities power to unseat politicians without having to go through the city’s courts.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai revealed the move after four legislators from the bloc were disqualified following the decision by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).
“Today, we announce we will resign from our positions as our colleagues are being disqualified by the central government’s ruthless move,” Wu said.
“There is separation of powers under the Basic Law, but today, the central government’s decision means separation of powers will be taken away. All the power will be centralised in the chief executive – a puppet of the central government. So today is the end of ‘one country, two systems’.”
The principle guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy in its economic, legal and political affairs for 50 years following its handover from Britain to China in 1997.
The move left the opposition with 15 lawmakers out of 58 in Legco.
The NPCSC resolution revealed by the state-run Xinhua news agency stipulated that lawmakers would immediately lose their seats under specified circumstances such as for promoting Hong Kong independence and engaging in acts threatening national security.
It also stated that any announcement of lawmakers losing their seats would be made directly by the Hong Kong government.
The city administration revealed the four lawmakers had been removed within minutes of the NPCSC resolution being handed down, leading to the suspension of a Legco meeting attended by the barred quartet.
Under Wednesday’s NPCSC resolution, lawmakers immediately lose their seats if they are ruled to have promoted or supported the notion of Hong Kong independence, refused to endorse the country’s resumption of sovereignty over the city, sought foreign forces to meddle in the city’s affairs or engaged in acts that jeopardise national security.
Here are the latest developments:
Lam dismisses prospect of by-elections
The city leader ruled out staging by-elections to fill the seats vacated by the four lawmakers, saying the next general polls would be held in nine months.
She pointed out that even her own allies in the legislature had, on many occasions, refused to endorse her proposals. “We, myself, welcome diverse opinions,” she said.
Beijing move has ‘very little to do with filibustering’
Lam explained that the Hong Kong government had sought clarification from the NPCSC after the four properly sworn-in lawmakers were ruled in July as not fulfilling the nomination criteria to run for election, because of the activities they had engaged in.
“We ... could not allow members of Legco who had been judged in accordance with the law that they could not fulfil the requirement and prerequisite to continue to operate in Legco,” she said.
“We would not take away members’ qualifications because they deploy certain parliamentary tactics,” she said. “We would not like to see this ... but that is not the purpose of this decision at all.”
Resolution ‘necessary and appropriate’: NPCSC chairman
In Beijing, NPCSC chairman Li Zhanshu said members called the resolution, which paved the way for the Hong Kong government’s removal of the lawmakers, “necessary” and “appropriate”. It was also beneficial to the country’s security, sovereignty and development interests, he said.
In separate statements, Beijing’s two offices overseeing Hong Kong affairs said they firmly supported the NPCSC’s latest decision.
Hong Kong opposition lawmakers threaten to resign en masse
Citing China’s late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said: “Deng had pointed out that [the principle of] ‘Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong’ has its bottom lines and standards, which is that patriots must form the main body of the city’s administrators.”
The central government’s liaison office in the city said: “Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. ‘Love the country and love Hong Kong’ is a political ethic that every Hong Kong politician must insist on. It is also a fundamental requirement under the [Chinese] constitution and the Basic Law.”
Beijing holds authority to interpret Basic Law: Lam
It also had the authority to handle problems arising from implementation of the city’s mini-constitution, she said.
Barred lawmakers slam ‘obvious breach’ of mini-constitution
With the Legco meeting they were attending suspended, the four disqualified members slowly left the chamber, condemning the decision as “an obvious breach” of the Basic Law and their right to take part in public affairs.
“If observing due process and fighting for democracy can lead to being disqualified, it [disqualification] will be my honour,” Dennis Kwok said.
He added they would consult their legal representatives before deciding whether to challenge the decision in the courts.