The resolution, passed by China’s highest legislative body, allows Hong Kong’s executive to expel elected lawmakers directly without having to go through the courts, potentially allowing Beijing to exercise increased control over the semi-autonomous territory.
Under the new ruling, lawmakers who are deemed to promote or support Hong Kong independence, or who refuse to acknowledge Beijing’s sovereignty over the city will “immediately lose their qualifications,” the resolution said.
It also applies to elected lawmakers who “seek foreign forces to intervene in the affairs of Hong Kong, or who have endangered national security” and who “fail to uphold the Basic Law” — the city’s mini constitution — as well as those who are deemed “not loyal to the legal requirements and conditions” of Hong Kong.
In a show of solidarity in advance of the ruling on Monday, 19 pro-democracy lawmakers threatened to resign en masse if any of their members were disqualified.
Kwok Ka-ki, one of those disqualified, told Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK that it was a day to “remember and reflect on the fight for democracy.”
“Today, One Country, Two Systems no longer exists. Anyone who made this decision has to answer to history and every one of the Hong Kong people,” he said, referring to the legal framework that allows Hong Kong greater autonomy from the mainland.
China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) passed the resolution following a meeting in Beijing on Monday. The move is a latest in a months long clampdown on opposition and pro-democracy voices in the city, following last year’s anti-government protest movement.
China has denied encroaching on Hong Kong’s political freedoms.
“It is absolutely devastating,” said Emily Lau, former chair for the Democratic Party and former Legislative Council member of the new resolution. “We have procedures in the Basic Law if you want to kick out a legislator but they have just ignored all that … there’s no rule of law. It’s sending a very bad signal to Hong Kong and the world.”
Lau said that the broad definition of new ruling means it could be applied to “almost half of the population” and that the only people who could now run for government would be those who would “kowtow to Beijing.”
RTHK previously reported that Beijing was seeking to unseat the lawmakers for violating Hong Kong’s Basic Law by filibustering meetings. Lau said that she believed the Hong Kong government and the ruling Communist Party in Beijing had become fed up with the filibustering by pro-democracy lawmakers in the city’s Legislative Council chamber.
With reporting from Eric Cheung in Hong Kong.