Hong Kong has plunged further into crisis as a new law imposed by Beijing allowing the disqualification of “unpatriotic” opposition members prompted the entire pro-democracy caucus to announce their resignation.
Four sitting legislators were disqualified with immediate effect, with the move heralded as the end of political opposition in the city and “the death-knell of Hong Kong’s democracy fight”.
The measure, passed by China’s highest legislative body on Wednesday, bars anyone from Hong Kong’s legislative council who supports independence, refuses to recognise Beijing’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, seeks help from “foreign countries or foreign forces to interfere in the affairs of the region” or commits “other acts that endanger national security”.
Minutes after the disqualifying legislation was announced by Chinese state media, the Hong Kong government released a statement disqualifying four pro-democracy legislators. Among those were the Civic party’s Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung of the Professionals Guild, lawmakers who had already been barred from running in legislative elections originally scheduled for September.
Beijing officials welcomed the announcement. “The political rule that Hong Kong must be governed by patriots shall be firmly guarded,” the Hong Kong liaison office said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the remaining 15 pro-democracy legislators appeared before the press, holding hands and chanting “Hong Kong add oil, together we stand!” (add oil is a translation of a Chinese expression of encouragement), and announced they would hand in their resignation letters on Thursday.
“This is an actual act by Beijing to sound the death-knell of Hong Kong’s democracy fight,” said the legislator Claudia Mo. “From now on, anyone they find to be politically incorrect or unpatriotic or simply not likeable to look at – they can just oust you.”
The camp’s convenor, Wu Chi-wai, accused the government of destroying Hong Kong’s separation of powers and giving up on the mini-constitution, the basic law. He said it was the culmination of Beijing’s six-year-long plan to “extend their jurisdiction over Hong Kong completely”.
“As a result, we will say that ‘one country, two systems’ in Hong has come to an end.”
Small protests broke out on Wednesday evening, including one by Alexandra Wong, a prominent protester known as “Grandma Wong” who disappeared last year before returning in October claiming she had been detained in mainland China. Wong displayed protest signs in the streets of Mongkok and was quickly surrounded by police who reportedly accused her of “inappropriate behaviours in public”.
The US national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, accused China of having “flagrantly violated” its international commitments, and threatened further sanctions on “those responsible for extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom”.