Dozens of local community politicians in Hong Kong yesterday swore a newly required loyalty oath to China, after hundreds of their colleagues quit in protest as authorities try to purge the territory of “unpatriotic” elements.
District councils are the only political office in Hong Kong where all seats are directly elected by residents.
They deal with everyday local issues like bus routes, trash collection and playgrounds, but they have also become a symbol of residents’ urge for a greater say in how Hong Kong is run.
In late 2019, toward the end of months of huge democracy protests, opposition candidates critical of China’s rule won landslide victories, hammering pro-Beijing candidates.
China has since responded with a crackdown on dissent, as well as an overhaul of the territory’s political system that reduces the number of directly elected officials and vets politicians for their perceived patriotism.
Yesterday, the first 24 councillors took the oath in a closed-door ceremony, the Hong Kong government said.
Similar ceremonies have been held for other sectors, including civil servants, government officials and lawmakers.
However, those who swear allegiance can still be disqualified. Under the new rules imposed by Beijing earlier this year, a national security committee can disqualify anyone deemed an “anti-China” element or disloyal.
“If we have doubts on certain councilors’ oath-taking, and could not completely trust whether they have pledged loyalty and allegiance, we will give them the opportunity to explain... If their oaths are invalid in the end, they will be disqualified,” Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said earlier this week.
About 180 district councilors are expected to take oaths in the coming weeks, and those who refuse to attend would lose their seats.
However, a majority of the elected councilors have quit rather than adhere to the vetting process. So far, 260 councilors — more than half of the 452 elected members — have resigned.
Oath-taking “has become the regime’s tool to keep you on a leash. They want to eliminate the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong,” said former Sai Kung District councilor Debby Chan (陳嘉琳), who resigned in July.
Since the 2019 protests, China has imposed a National Security Law that criminalized much dissent and began remolding Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image. Several district councilors are among the more than 60 people who have been charged with national security crimes, the vast majority for their political views.
In the latest prosecution, three leading members of the group behind Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen vigils appeared in court.
On Thursday, police raided a museum they ran dedicated to the victims of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown.
The three leaders were hit with a subversion charge after they refused to cooperate with a national security investigation.
Before her court appearance, barrister Chow Hang-tung (鄒幸彤), one of those charged, wrote on Facebook: “If they have written the script to eliminate our freedom, then obedience and cooperation will only help them reach their goal quicker and easier.”
In court, she told the judge that the charges were “absurd.”
BUSY DAY: The same day the USS ‘Barry’ passed through the Strait, Taiwan was ending its Han Kuang military exercises, while China said it conducted an exercise near Taiwan A US Navy ship on Friday sailed through the Taiwan Strait, marking the ninth time a US military vessel has transited the Strait since US President Joe Biden took office in January. The USS Barry, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, conducted a “routine” transit through the Strait, the US Navy said in a statement, adding that the journey through international waters was conducted “in accordance with international law.” “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the US Navy said. “The United States military flies, sails and operates anywhere international law allows.” The Ministry
CLOSED FOR DISINFECTION: Two of the three local cases were linked to a cluster infection at a kindergarten, while the other case works at a McDonald’s restaurant The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported three new local COVID-19 infections and 11 imported cases, but no deaths. The local cases are two men and a woman aged between 20 and 80 who reside in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taoyuan, the CECC said in a news release. Two of them are linked to a cluster infection at a kindergarten in New Taipei City’s Banciao District (板橋), said Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is the CECC’s spokesman. He said they are both associated with the mother of a kindergarten student, who was earlier confirmed to have
BIOLOGICAL AGENT: A containment exercise was held in southern Tainan, in response to a mock assault where troops were assumed to be attacked by bioweapons The live-fire component of this year’s annual Han Kuang military exercises, Taiwan’s major war games involving all military branches, began yesterday morning and is to run until Friday to test the armed forces’ capability to fend off a Chinese invasion. The 37th edition of the annual event officially began after the Ministry of National Defense’s Joint Operations Command Center, also known as the Hengshan Command Center, announced the initiation of the five-day live-fire drills. Yesterday’s drills were focused on testing the military’s preservation and maintenance of combat capabilities in the event of a full-scale Chinese invasion. As part of the drills, air force
WELCOME BACK: Foreign spouses or minor children of Taiwanese can now directly apply for a visa with representative offices overseas, the CECC said Regulations on applications for entry to the nation by foreign spouses or minor children of Taiwanese have been relaxed effective immediately, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported two new local and three imported cases of COVID-19. Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥), deputy head of the center, said the relaxation meant that such applications would be treated as general cases, instead of special ones that are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. “Considering the recent local COVID-19 situation and the needs of foreign spouses and children to visit their family in Taiwan, we are allowing Taiwan’s