Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers have resigned after the city government disqualified four pro-democracy legislators.
Hong Kong expelled four opposition members from its legislature on Wednesday after Beijing gave city authorities new powers to curb dissent, raising the prospect of a walk-out in protest by pro–democracy legislators.
Just before the expulsions, China’s parliament adopted a resolution allowing the city’s executive to expel legislators deemed to be advocating Hong Kong independence, colluding with foreign forces or threatening national security by other means, without having to go through the courts.
The four assembly members had previously been disqualified from running for re-election as authorities deemed their pledge of allegiance to Hong Kong was not sincere.
Opposition members of the city assembly say they have tried to make a stand against what many people in the former British colony see as Beijing’s whittling away of freedoms, despite a promise of a high degree of autonomy.
China denies curbing rights and freedoms in the global financial hub but authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing have moved swiftly to stifle dissent after anti-government protests flared in June last year and plunged the city into crisis.
The city government said in a statement the four legislators – Kwok, Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung – were expelled from the assembly for endangering national security.
Hong Kong‘s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, later told a briefing she welcomed diverse opinion in the 70-seat legislature but the law had to be applied.
“We could not allow members of a Legislative Council who have been judged under the law that they could not fulfil the requirement and the prerequisite for serving on the Legislative Council to continue to operate,” she said.
On Monday, the then 19 democratic members of the city legislature threatened to resign en masse if any of them was disqualified.