More than half of Hong Kong’s 452 district councilors have quit in protest over a newly required “loyalty” oath to Beijing that pro-China forces within Hong Kong’s government have imposed on the directly elected public officials, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Friday.
“Some 180 district councilors are expected to take [loyalty] oaths in the coming weeks and those who refuse to attend will lose their seats,” according to AFP.
“However, a majority of the elected district councilors have simply quit rather than adhere to the vetting process,” the news agency revealed.
“So far a total of 260 — more than half of the 452 elected members — have resigned,” AFP reported on September 10.
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in May passed a bill requiring members of the city’s 18 district councils to pledge an oath of allegiance to the city’s Basic Law, or de facto constitution. The Basic Law holds that Hong Kong is a part of China but with its own distinct legal and political systems. Beijing has increasingly encroached on Hong Kong’s semi-independence from China in recent months in response to a powerful pro-democracy protest movement that swept the city from about June 2019-June 2020.
Xia Baolong, the director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of China’s State Council, said Hong Kong should only be ruled by “patriots” when introducing the loyalty oath legislation in February. Xia said the term “patriot” includes “people who love China, its constitution and the Communist Party and excludes anti-China ‘troublemakers,'” Reuters reported at the time.
Hong Kong’s government already required “senior government officials, civil servants, lawmakers, and judges” to pledge a loyalty oath to the Chinese Communist Party prior to extending the obligation to district council members in May, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.
“Twenty-five councilors were told to take their oaths in a closed-door ceremony on Friday, but only 24 of them attended the event,” AFP reported on September 10.
“In a Facebook post published shortly before the ceremony, pro-democracy councilor Peter Choi said he ‘couldn’t compromise and pledge allegiance to a regime that does not value the people,'” the news agency relayed.
“From standing for the elections to entering the council, my objective was to monitor the government, not bearing allegiance to the regime,” Choi wrote in the social media post.
Choi was unseated from his Hong Kong district council with immediate effect on Friday for failing to show up at the scheduled oath ceremony. The same fate awaits any district councilor who refuses to comply with the new measure. The Hong Kong government says it retains the right to disqualify any councilors whose allegiance to Beijing is deemed insufficient, whether or not he or she takes the new loyalty oath.
“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 told reporters earlier this week.