Hong Kong District Councilor Expelled After Failing to Take Loyalty Oath

Authorities say they are unconvinced by the oaths of seven more, including two councilors awaiting trial for 'subversion' under the national security law.
By Kay Lee, Lu Xi, and Man Hoi Yan
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Hong Kong District Councilor Expelled After Failing to Take Loyalty Oath upporters hold up placards showing photographs of the 47 pro-democracy activists, charged under the National Security Law for participating in an unofficial 2020 primary election last year, in Hong Kong, May 31, 2021.
Authorities in Hong Kong have expelled an elected pro-democracy member of the city's District Council for failing to turn up to pledge allegiance to the government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), while calling into question the oaths of seven other opposition councilors.

Peter Choi, who was elected in Hong Kong Island's Eastern district, failed to turn up alongside 24 colleagues for a mass oath-taking ceremony on Friday. He was expalled from the council with immediate effect.

Officials also asked seven other councilors -- Clarisse Yeung and Leung Pak-kin from Wanchai, Wei Siu-lik, So Yat-hang, Chan Wing-tai and Lai Tsz-yan from Eastern, and Michael Pang from Southern district -- for further information after finding their oaths "questionable."

"As the oath administrator had doubts on the validity of the oaths taken by seven district council members, they were required to provide additional information for the oath administrator to decide the validity of their oaths," state news agency Xinhua reported.

Yeung and Pang also face charges under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the CCP from July 1, 2020. They are among 47 former lawmakers and democracy activists charged with "subversion" for taking part in a democratic primary ahead of planned elections to the Legislative Council (LegCo).

Leung said via social media that he had been given until 5.00 p.m. local time on Monday to respond to the request.

The remaining 17 councilor on Hong Kong Island will be allowed to remain in their seats, after they took their oaths, officials said.

While the pro-democracy camp took control of all but one of the city's 18 councils in November 2019, more than 260 district councilors have resigned amid an ongoing crackdown on public dissent and mandatory oath-taking since the national security law took effect. 
Macau turnout plummets
Some cited the oath-taking as a reason, amid fears councilors who "failed" their oath-taking would be required to pay back their salaries and expenses.

District Councilors, LegCo members and around 170,000 civil servants in Hong Kong are expected to take oaths of allegiance to the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the People's Republic of China.

The national security law criminalizes any kind of public statement that could be regarded as inciting ill-feeling against the authorities, both in Hong Kong and Beijing.

The person administering the oath determines whether an oath is valid or not, and there is no right of appeal, according to an oath-taking law that took effect from May 2021.

A vetting body for would-be election candidates has already been set up under the national security law, under the supervision of national security police and former police chief Chris Tang, to screen out people who are only pretending to be patriots, officials have said.

Meanwhile, turnout plummeted in general elections held in the former Portuguese city of Macau after officials disqualified 21 opposition candidates after saying they had proof that "they did not uphold Macau's Basic Law and were not loyal to Macau."

Turnout fell by nearly 15 percentage points to just over 42 percent compared with 57 percent in the 2017 general election.

Opposition in jail or overseas
Disqualified opposition candidate and former lawmaker Antonio Ng told RFA: "Our disqualification was completely in line with the sort of logic we saw during the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976]."

"[The reason behind it was] obviously a very well-kept state secret," Ng added satirically. "Legally, the logic is totally absurd."

"People are just being classified with various labels, and the treatment they hand out is decided after you have been labeled."

Macau-based journalist Choi Chi Chio said there was scant public interest in this general election.

"Generally Macau people think this election was pretty meaningless," Choi told RFA. "The central government isn't even allowing people to act the part."

"The same thing is happening in Hong Kong."

He said there was little chance that anyone with pro-democracy views would get anyway near public office in either city.

"Even if [opposition candidates] did get in, they would look nothing like the traditional kind of democrats ... maybe people who never talk about the Tiananmen massacre and never oppose China; there are some so-called centrists in Macau ... like that," Choi said.

Most of Hong Kong's opposition lawmakers are either in jail or have fled overseas since the national security law crackdown began.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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