Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor confirmed on Wednesday that it was she who asked Beijing to clarify how lawmakers could be disqualified, because there was confusion over whether legislators banned from seeking re-election could serve out their extended term. Lam also said the move had nothing to do with filibustering and that the government would amend relevant constitutional and electoral regulations to align them with the resolution issued by China’s top legislative body on Wednesday. But her remarks left Hong Kong and mainland Chinese scholars divided over which side initiated Beijing’s latest intervention in the city’s political affairs and the reasons behind it. While mainland Chinese academics said it was opposition lawmakers’ filibustering that forced Lam to seek help, local pundits believed the central government had had enough of the pan-democrats’ antics. And while some legal experts said Beijing’s move, as well as Lam’s follow-up amendments, could have a far-reaching impact on the city’s political and legal systems, others believed it was too early to say. The top legislative body endorsed a resolution on Wednesday to give local authorities the power to remove politicians without having to go through the city’s courts, resulting in four lawmakers being unseated almost instantly. As state-run Xinhua news agency released the controversial resolution, all eyes were on the criteria that could lead to lawmakers’ instant disqualification. But there was also another piece of information in the introduction: the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) only discussed the issue at the request of Lam. Flanked by her justice and constitutional affairs ministers on Wednesday, Lam confirmed she had indeed sought help. With the standing committee unanimously endorsing the resolution, the four lawmakers – Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung – were immediately disqualified. Who are Hong Kong’s ousted Legco members, and what exactly did they do? Lam said she had asked Beijing to step in because allowing the four to serve extended terms was a constitutional anomaly when they had already been disqualified from running for re-election over their calls for foreign governments to sanction the Hong Kong and central governments. In stark contrast to her stance on Wednesday, Lam had hinted in August that all sitting lawmakers could continue with their duties in the Legislative Council when the standing committee extended the term for one year to plug the gap created by the postponement of polls because of the coronavirus pandemic . “As the NPCSC has made this decision to let all members of the current Legco perform their duties, then they can just return and perform. I am not the one who can tell whether they will come back or not,” Lam told a press conference on August 18. Lam’s apparently contradictory remarks led some local experts to question whether she was just covering up for a change of mind by Beijing on disqualifying opposition lawmakers. It is obvious Beijing was giving these lawmakers a chance in July, but they continued to break the rules and obstruct procedures Tian Feilong, law professor at Beihang University Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said he believed Lam was forced to change her stance, as she would not be bold enough to seek an explanation if Beijing allowed the lawmakers to stay. “It actually proves Beijing was indecisive in the process. It’s not immediately clear why it changed its mind, but apparently when Beijing decided to kick the four out, Lam had to claim it was her idea,” he said. Defiant Hong Kong opposition lawmakers under attack from all sides But Tian Feilong, a law professor at Beihang University in Beijing, believed the opposition’s recent filibustering was the reason behind the move and had prompted Lam to seek Beijing’s help. “It is obvious Beijing was giving these lawmakers a chance in July, but they continued to break the rules and obstruct procedures, which was reaching a level that was undermining the government’s performance, so Lam had to do something on this,” he said. Asked whether she had changed her stance, Lam insisted on Wednesday “there was not too much of a contradiction”, and that her request for Beijing’s clarification had nothing to do with recent filibustering. Analysts saw the NPCSC’s resolution as a Beijing-imposed punishment on the opposition, paving the way for easier grounds to disqualify lawmakers in the future, while enabling more legislative amendments in favour of the government in the coming year. Lam also insisted the decision did not give her any additional power to unseat legislators. But she made it clear her government would be amending some laws to make sure they aligned with the resolution. The chief executive also said that when the NPCSC stipulated that lawmakers would lose their seats if they “were recognised under the law” to have breached requirements in the resolution, it was referring to laws such as the Basic Law , the city’s mini-constitution, the Legco Ordinance, the Electoral Affairs Commission Regulation and the national security law . “It could involve specifying the formalities of oath-taking , who oversees it, as well as the mechanism and consequences of a breach of the oath,” she said. Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, chair of public law at the University of Hong Kong, called the resolution “lawlessness”, and said it had seriously undermined the city’s rule of law. “Even if a person is violating the national security law, he or she can be tried in court. But now the NPCSC has the say, leaving no room for lawmakers to explain or to review the decisions. It is totally unfair,” he said. Choy also said the NPCSC’s decision could be seen as “constitutional re-engineering”. “Not only will some unpopular bills bulldozed through by the government be passed, the government might consider changing some fundamental rules related to elections in the remaining months,” he said. But Tian said Beijing was just trying to clarify doubts concerning the lawmakers’ eligibility. “The four lawmakers were ruled in July as not fulfilling the nomination criteria to run for election … thus the central government had to explain [whether they could stay on],” he said. “It may serve as a warning for these lawmakers, but it also provides clear definitions now.” Under Article 104 of the mini-constitution, all lawmakers must pledge to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to Hong Kong as a special administrative region of China when assuming office. Lam said the government would be amending laws to make sure they aligned with the article as well. Lin Feng, associate dean of the City University’s law school, said it was difficult to say what kind of action could be considered by the government as a breach of the oath in the future, or whether the changes to existing laws could be challenged in court.