Dozens of Pro-Democracy Politicians Resign in Hong Kong Ahead of Oath Requirement

Officials are warning that no 'fake patriots' will be allowed to run for political office in the city.
By Man Hoi Yan and Cheng Yut Yiu
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Dozens of Pro-Democracy Politicians Resign in Hong Kong Ahead of Oath Requirement Acting Hong Kong chief executive John Lee (right) toasts with Chinese officials following a ceremony marking the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain, July 1, 2021.

Dozens of democratically elected district council members in Hong Kong are resigning amid government plans to screen and disqualify them through a new political vetting system and compulsory oaths of allegiance.

The government will likely tell members of the District Council this month that they will be required to take a pledge of allegiance to the government, and up to 230 pro-democracy members elected in a post-protest movement landslide in 2019 could lose their seats, according to local media reports.

While the pro-democracy camp took control of all but one of the city's 18 councils in November 2019, 49 councilors resigned this week, citing a law requiring them to take oaths that was passed in May.

Some also face "subversion" charges under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the CCP from July 1, 2020, for taking part in a democratic primary in the same summer.

Shatin district councilor Yau Man-chun was among those to resign on Thursday, telling reporters that they were "frustrated" at constant obstruction by government officials.

"The main reason is that I am disappointed, and I need to take some time to calm down and rest," Yau told reporters. "We have experienced this sense of powerlessness actually since the very start of the current term of the District Council."

"It has made it very hard to follow up on issues affecting my district."

Yau's colleague and deputy chairman of Tai Po District Council, Lau Yung Wai, said he would hang on a while longer, to see if he can make some difference.

"I respect my colleagues' [decision to quit] but I hope that those who do choose to stay on will keep trying [to make a difference]," Yau said.

But he added: "I don't yet know if I can keep going ... we can't predict what will happen about the reported lists of members to be disqualified."

'No fake patriots'

The uncertainty over the last pro-democracy politicians to remain in post in Hong Kong comes as chief secretary for the administration John Lee warned that no "fake patriots" would be allowed to run in elections in the city.

A vetting body for would-be election candidates set up under the national security law, which will be supervised by the national security apparatus, will aim to screen out people who are only pretending to be patriots, Lee told reporters on Wednesday.

"We will be considering individual cases on their own merits, taking into consideration all the factors and the information that is available to hand," Lee said in comments reported by government broadcaster RTHK.

The vetting body also includes former police chief Chris Tang.

Tang also warned on Wednesday that the authorities investigate claims that the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which has long been outlawed in mainland China as an "evil cult," broke the national security law.

Pro-CCP lawmakers have asked why the group hasn't already been banned in Hong Kong.

"Law enforcement agencies will definitely be looking into this matter more closely," Tang said.

"Any acts that may endanger national security and any such organisation engaging in such acts would face the full force of the law, including rigorous investigation, gathering of evidence, and if needs be, enforcement action will be taken," he said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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