HONG KONG: Hong Kong disqualified four opposition members of its legislature on Wednesday (Nov 11) shortly after the Chinese parliament adopted a resolution allowing the city's executive to expel legislators without having to go through the courts.
The expulsions came shortly after China's parliament adopted a resolution allowing the city's executive to expel legislators deemed to be supporting Hong Kong independence, colluding with foreign forces or threatening national security, without having to go through the courts.
The 19 pan-democratic members of the 70-seat city legislature on Monday threatened to resign en masse if any of them was disqualified, saying that would reflect their unity and show how far Beijing was willing to go to crush opposition.
While the city's Legislative Council is controlled by a pro-Beijing camp, the resignations of its pro-democracy lawmakers would turn it into a rubber stamp.
The opposition members have tried to make a stand against what many people in the former British colony see as Beijing's tightening grip over the financial hub, despite a promise of a high degree of autonomy.
"My mission as a legislator to fight for democracy and freedom cannot continue but I would certainly go along if Hong Kong people continue to fight for the core values of Hong Kong," one of the disqualified assembly members, Kwok Ka-Ki, told reporters.
China denies encroaching on Hong Kong's freedoms but authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing have moved swiftly to stifle dissent after anti-government protests flared in June last year and plunged the city into crisis.
The city government said in a statement the four legislators - Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung - were expelled from the assembly for endangering national security. It did not elaborate.
They were among 12 legislators who were earlier disqualified from standing in a legislative election, now postponed, for various reasons including collusion with foreign forces and opposition to the new national security law.
The disqualifications are likely to add to concern in the West about Hong Kong's autonomy, promised under a "one country, two systems" formula when Britain handed it to China in 1997, as Joe Biden prepares to take over from Donald Trump as US president, promising to promote democracy around the world.
"This completely violates the 'one country, two systems' proper procedures and ignores basic human rights," Dennis Kwok told reporters.
The decision by the Chinese parliament's top decision-making body comes amid frustration in pro-Beijing circles in Hong Kong over what they see as opposition "delay tactics" to obstruct legislation.
Filibustering has long been common in Hong Kong where only half of the 70 seats in the legislature are elected and the other half stacked with pro-Beijing figures.
This month, eight opposition politicians were arrested in connection with a meeting in the Legislative Council in May that descended into chaos.
On Jun 30, Beijing introduced sweeping national security legislation to the city, punishing anything China considers subversion, secessionism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Since then, authorities have removed some pro-democracy books from libraries, banned certain songs and other activities in schools, declared some slogans illegal and raided the newsroom of an anti-government tabloid.
Critics say the authorities are trying to kill the momentum of the pro-democracy movement. Government supporters say the authorities are trying to restore stability in China's freest city after a year of unrest.