The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China on Wednesday last week ruled that any lawmaker elected to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) who “supports Hong Kong independence, rejects the Chinese government’s governing authority over Hong Kong, courts foreign interference in the internal governance of Hong Kong or engages in other action or behavior that harms national security” would be removed from office.
Minutes after Beijing’s announcement, officials in Hong Kong ejected four lawmakers from the LegCo: Dennis Kwok (郭榮鏗), Kwok Ka-ki (郭家麒), Kenneth Leung (梁繼昌) and Alvin Yeung (楊岳橋), all of whom are members of the pro-democracy Civic Party.
At a news conference later that day, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) claimed that the expulsions were “legal, reasonable and constitutional.”
The day after, LegCo pan-democratic camp convener and Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai (胡志偉), and 14 other pro-democracy lawmakers resigned from the legislature.
The Democratic Party issued a statement criticizing Beijing’s resolution and said that the move is the final death knell for “one country, two systems,” and opens the door for the direct insertion of legislation and resolutions from the mainland.
The statement ended with the message that Hong Kongers would stand and fall together, and would meet again on the streets.
The matter raises three issues:
First, the reason for the passing of the resolution — and Hong Kong National People’s Congress Standing Committee member Tam Yiu-chung’s (譚耀宗) intervention prior to its announcement — was because the pan-democratic camp within the LegCo had been delivering long-winded speeches, prolonging the voting process and employing other filibustering tactics to obstruct the legislative process. This led Beijing to impose controversial national security legislation on Hong Kong, which enabled it to remove the four legislators. Beijing did this to set an example to other Hong Kong lawmakers.
However, last week’s ruling not only breached normal legal procedure in Hong Kong and bypassed the judicial review process, it also demonstrated that the executive, after obtaining the consent of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee, can bypass the checks and balances of legislative and judicial power, effectively eliminating dissent.
Second, after the removal and mass resignation of pan-democratic camp legislators, the LegCo is now left with 41 pro-Beijing lawmakers and only two non-establishment members.
Many controversial motions of the past, such as the Sha Tin to Central Link MTR expansion, and other wasteful and inefficient projects, or the political reform bill pushed by the CCP, are no longer subject to proper scrutiny by a hollowed LegCo. It has become nothing more than a “rubber stamp” parliament of the CCP and the Hong Kong executive.
Third, following the resignations and removals, Tam and the CCP’s Hong Kong Liaison Office have stated that if the actions of Hong Kong’s public representatives could be interpreted as a “refusal to recognize the ruling authority of China’s government,” then they might have breached the Standing Committee’s resolution and could forfeit their eligibility to stand for election. This would completely stifle dissent within Hong Kong politics.
It is under these extremely trying circumstances that the international and parliamentary-level battles to defend Hong Kong’s freedoms continue to be assaulted by Beijing through a combination of piecemeal encroachment and wholesale annexation. Potential street protests would also face the threat of police violence and could fall foul of numerous draconian articles introduced under Beijing’s new National Security Law.
As Hong Kongers desperately fight to save their democratic freedoms, Hong Kong is on the brink of a crisis. Separated from Hong Kong by nothing more than water, Taiwanese must cherish their precious democratic values and act now to support Hong Kongers.
God save Hong Kong.
Sammuel Tung is a university student.
Translated by Edward Jones
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