Hong Kong’s four pan-democrats fear disqualification, pro-democracy camp proposes general resignation in protest

Hong Kong media reported Sunday night that Beijing will take action against the pro-democracy camp’s filibuster after the resumption of the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) session and may add it to the agenda of the NPC Standing Committee meeting on November 10, according to a “sudden” report from the pro-establishment top brass. . The source predicts that many pro-democracy lawmakers will be disqualified (DQ) as a result.

At least four pan-democratic lawmakers are known to be in the “DQ high-risk zone”, including Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Wing-hang and Kwok Ka-ki of the Civic Party, and Leung Kai-cheong, a political professional, who was disqualified by the Returning Officer in the Legislative Council election in September this year.

Hong Kong’s sole Standing Committee member of the National People’s Congress (NPC), Tam Yiu-chung, warned on Monday morning (Nov 9) that the delaying tactics adopted by opposition lawmakers at Legislative Council meetings since the start of the extended term have made them unfit to serve as legislators, according to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s English-language newspaper that has become progressively pro-China since the Chinese takeover. He said lawmakers should act in accordance with the oath of allegiance under Article 104 of the Basic Law, including pledging allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and upholding the Basic Law, and that lawmakers “are not fit to be legislators” if they interfere with the normal operation of the Legislative Council. Mr. Tam did not confirm that the NPCSC may add to its agenda the disqualification of the four pan-democratic lawmakers.

The resumption of the extended term of the Hong Kong Legislative Council began on October 14, less than a month ago, and the struggle surrounding the legislature is already intense.

Hong Kong Legislative Council elections were originally scheduled to be held in early September, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor took advantage of the new coronavirus pneumonia epidemic serious, July 31 announced the invocation of the Emergency Law to postpone the Legislative Council elections for one year, and how to deal with the Legislative Council one year “vacuum period” of the problem, to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China to deal with. On August 11, the NPC Standing Committee unanimously passed a decision to extend the term of all current legislators for at least one year.

The pro-establishment camp criticized the pan-democrats for using repeated quorum counts as a delaying tactic. In response, Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting told the media on Monday that the pan-democrats’ request for a headcount complied with the requirements of the Basic Law and the Legislative Council’s rules of procedure. He said the headcount is because the number of people present at the Legco meeting is not enough for a quorum. Lam Cheuk-ting stressed that according to Article 75 of the Basic Law, the quorum for a Legislative Council meeting should be not less than half of the members who requested to attend. He questioned how this was a violation of the Basic Law. According to Lam Cheuk-ting, Tam Yiu-chung is paving the way for Beijing or the Hong Kong authorities to disqualify pan-democratic legislators.

Observers believe that any move to disqualify the elected lawmakers would highlight international concerns about Hong Kong’s autonomy. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration announced on Aug. 7 this year sanctions against 11 Chinese and Hong Kong officials who undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, four Chinese officials involved in Hong Kong, including Luo Huining, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the People’s Republic of China, and seven Hong Kong government officials.
The reported disqualification of the four pan-democratic lawmakers, if they are disqualified, is seen as another tactic increasingly used by the government to silence critics.

According to the latest reports, the convener of the pro-democracy conference, Democratic Party Chairman David Wu Chi-wai, said in the evening of November 9 that the pro-democracy camp had unanimously decided after the conference that if the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress decided to disqualify the pro-democracy lawmakers, the 19 current pro-democracy lawmakers would unhesitatingly resign in general and make the strongest possible protest against the Legislative Council. At present, there are 19 pro-democracy lawmakers. A number of pan-democratic lawmakers have refused to extend their terms for another year in protest against the authorities’ decision to delay the next Legislative Council election.

On November 9, Bloomberg News quoted Barrister and current Civic Party Executive Committee member Kwok Wing-hung as saying, “It looks like the powers-that-be can no longer tolerate the opposition,” he said. He said, “They cannot tolerate opposition from the Legislative Council. They are determined to eliminate all opposition from the Legislative Council. They are determined to get rid of all democrats, not just the democrats in the Legislative Council, but the whole of Hong Kong.”

Radio Television Hong Kong reported that Tsai Tzu-keung, a senior lecturer at CUHK’s Department of Politics and Administration, argued that the incident reflected the central government’s wavering and ill-considered position on the issue of keeping pro-democracy lawmakers in the legislature, and that Beijing’s earlier passage of the current legislature’s extension of term, which should have been stated at the time of the extension resolution if it was believed that pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from participating in the legislature’s election should not remain in office, was inconsistent with its current disqualification.

Chua Tzu-keung said the incident could cause an international backlash. The current sensitive period, the Democratic Party’s Biden won the U.S. presidential election, the outside world to see if China-U.S. relations will ease, but Biden if attacked for a weaker policy towards China, I believe Biden will be under some pressure. In addition, the Democratic Party’s response to the NPC Standing Committee’s decision with a general rhetoric could turn into an international incident, which could cast a shadow over Sino-US relations and make the disqualification of the senator unwise.

According to Article 22(3) of the “Hong Kong version of the National Security Law”, “the crime of subversion of state power”, any person who seriously interferes with, obstructs or disrupts the exercise of the functions of the organs of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China or the organs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in accordance with law shall be liable to a maximum penalty of not less than 5 years and not more than 10 years of imprisonment, while a lesser offender shall be liable to a maximum penalty of not more than 5 years of imprisonment, detention or control.

Moreover, under article 104 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, principal officials and members of the judiciary, including members of the Legislative Council, are required to swear allegiance to the Basic Law and the HKSAR upon assuming office, and to declare that they “shall perform their duties conscientiously, abide by the law, and act honestly and with integrity”.