Hong Kong legislature sits without democrats after exodus

Hong Kong legislature sits without democrats after exodus

Hong Kong Lawmakers Disqualified
Empty seats are seen inside the chamber during council meeting after pan-democratic legislators resign in protest against the dismissal of four of their colleagues from the Hong Kong Legislative Council, Nov 12, 2020. (Photo: AP)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong's legislature sat empty of pro-democracy lawmakers on Thursday (Nov 12) after the bloc said they would resign en masse, turning the semi-autonomous city's once-feisty legislature into a muted gathering of Beijing loyalists.

The resignations come with the city's beleaguered pro-democracy movement and avenues of dissent already under sustained attack since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law earlier this year.

READ: Timeline - The impact of the national security law on Hong Kong

Wednesday's resignations by 15 pro-democracy lawmakers were in protest at the city's pro-Beijing government banning four of their colleagues from holding office.

The four were disqualified in line with a resolution adopted earlier in the day by China's parliament authorising the expulsion of any politician deemed a threat to national security.

hong Kong legislature: purge of the pan-democrats
Graphic showing how the share of pan-democrat legislative seats in Hong Kong have gradually eroded through disqualifications and resignations since the last election in 2016 AFP/John SAEKI

"Hong Kongers - prepare for a long, long time where there is only one voice in society," pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting told reporters outside the chamber as he hung a poster attacking the city's pro-Beijing leader.

"If you are a dissident, get ready for even more pressure."

READ: US warns of further China sanctions over Hong Kong moves

Hong Kong's leader is chosen by pro-Beijing committees, but half of its legislature's 70 seats are directly elected, offering the city's 7.5 million residents a rare chance to have their voices heard at the ballot box.

Scuffles and protests would routinely break out in the chamber, with the pro-democracy minority often resorting to filibustering and other tactics to try to halt bills they oppose.

The resignations will leave just two legislators outside the pro-Beijing camp.

The United States warned after Wednesday's move of further sanctions against China, which it said had "flagrantly violated" Hong Kong's autonomy.

Critics say the national security 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.

Source: AFP/jt