Beijing has condemned the mass resignation of pro-democracy lawmakers as a “farce” and “an open challenge” against the Basic Law.
“If these lawmakers hope to make use of their resignation to provoke radical opposition and beg for foreign interference, they have miscalculated,” said a strongly-worded statement published Thursday by the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, the central government’s advisory body in the city.
In a press conference yesterday, 15 pro-democracy lawmakers announced that they would be resigning from the Legislative Council. The move comes after the government disqualified four opposition legislators, citing a ruling by Beijing’s top legislative body.
“We think this is extremely absurd. It also signifies that the central government has abandoned the Basic Law and ‘One Country, Two Systems,” said Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party.
In a display of solidarity with each other, the lawmakers chanted during the press conference, “Hong Kong add oil! Together we stand.”
Lawmakers arrived at the Legislative Council on Thursday afternoon to hand in their resignation letters.
The ousted legislators include Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung. All four were among the dozen candidates who were disqualified from running in this year’s Legislative Council, or LegCo, elections before they were postponed.
International watchdog Human Rights Watch urged Beijing to reverse the decision, adding that it turns the legislature into a “rubber-stamp body” that gives the “Hong Kong government arbitrary power to remove any legislator whose views it dislikes.”
While the mass resignation is a dramatic development in the city’s political saga, it in effect changes little within the legislative halls: The 41 pro-Beijing lawmakers command a majority in the council, meaning that uncontroversial bills and policies pass by default.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has downplayed concerns that Beijing had bypassed the city’s courts and exercised far-reaching powers to choke what remains of Hong Kong’s autonomy.
In a Wednesday press conference, during which she characteristically evaded reporters’ questions, she said that the decision is a “constitutional, lawful and reasonable arrangement.”
She said that since the four opposition lawmakers had earlier been barred from running in this year’s now-postponed elections, a question was raised regarding whether or not they should be allowed to stay in office.
Lam added that the Hong Kong government invited Beijing to “resolve the problem from a constitutional perspective.”
Among the non-establishment lawmakers, Pierre Chan, a medical sector representative, and Cheng Chung-tai, member of the localist party Civic Passion, chose not to give up their seats.
Chan said he wanted to continue contributing to the city’s fight against COVID-19, and Cheng said he thinks the decision to resign is futile.
“In this political climate, I don’t think a mass resignation will do anything to threaten the regime,” Cheng told reporters. “I will continue to serve Hongkongers in the coming days and stay in the Legislative Council.”
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