Four Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians are removed from power under new Chinese laws that disqualifies lawmakers deemed ‘a threat to national security’
- Comes after Beijing ruled any politician can be removed without court approval
- Latest blow to democracy since imposition of sweeping security law in June
- China’s leaders have called it a ‘sword’ hanging over the head of their critics
- 19 others had threatened to resign on Monday if their colleagues were ousted
Four Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians have been ousted under new Chinese laws that disqualify those deemed ‘a threat to national security.’
Hong Kong’s government ruled on Wednesday that Dennis Kwok, Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung would ‘lose their qualification as legislators immediately’.
Their dismissal comes after The National People’s Congress Standing Committee – one of Communist China‘s top lawmaking committees – ruled that Hong Kong could remove any legislator deemed a threat to national security without going through the courts.
It is the latest blow to democracy in the former British colony which has been under sustained threat since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law, including arrests for social media posts and activists fleeing overseas.
Four lawmakers, from left, Dennis Kwok, Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung listen to reporters questions during a press conference at Legislative Council in Hong Kong on Wednesday
Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Wednesday
The demorats Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Ka-ki, Kenneth Leung and Dennis Kwok at a press conference on Monday
Another 19 lawmakers had threatened to resign on Monday if their colleagues were disqualified – their protests did nothing to save the others.
The national security law was imposed in June to quell months of huge and often violent protests in the finance hub.
China’s leaders have described it as a ‘sword’ hanging over the head of their critics.
‘If observing due process, protecting systems and functions and fighting for democracy and human rights would lead to the consequences of being disqualified, it would be my honour,’ Dennis Kwok, one of the disqualified lawmakers, told reporters Wednesday.
The four had initially been banned from running in the semi-autonomous city’s legislative elections, which were scheduled to be held September 6, after calling on the US to impose sanctions on Hong Kong officials.
Those elections were postponed, with authorities blaming the coronavirus.
Hong Kong’s legislature passes the territory’s laws, but only half of its 70 members are directly elected – and a complex appointment system ensures the city’s pro-Beijing establishment is all but guaranteed a handsome majority.
Scuffles and protests routinely break out, with the pro-democracy minority often resorting to filibustering and other tactics to try to halt bills they oppose.
Pro-Beijing supporters gather outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Many pro-democracy protesters have retreated since the sweeping national security law came down in June
A mass resignation would leave the legislature composed almost entirely of those toeing Beijing’s line.
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said the disqualifications were ‘constitutional, legal, reasonable and necessary’.
The inability of Hong Kongers to elect their leaders and lawmakers has been at the heart of swelling opposition to Beijing’s rule.
More than 10,000 people were arrested during the democracy protests, and the courts are now filled with trials – many of them involving opposition lawmakers and prominent activists.
Critics say the law’s broadly worded provisions are a hammer blow to the flickering freedoms that China promised Hong Kong could keep after the end of British colonial rule in 1997.