Beijing kills pan-democratic lawmakers. Hong Kong’s representative government and separation of powers system may exist in name only.

The Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) has gone beyond the legal procedures in Hong Kong to DQ (disqualify or dismiss) four incumbent legislators, prompting more than a dozen pro-democracy legislators to resign in protest.

In response, some scholars in Hong Kong and Taiwan said that under Beijing’s blockade, it is no longer meaningful for democrats to stay in the Legislative Council, therefore, resignation can once again highlight the fact that representative politics in Hong Kong “exists in name only”. They also said that, after the “street protest route” and “parliamentary protest route” of the democratic movement in Hong Kong have both suffered setbacks, how to continue to gain international attention in the future, that is, the “international protest route”. “It will be crucial,” the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) said Wednesday (Nov 11).

China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Wednesday (Nov 11) disqualified four Hong Kong pan-democratic lawmakers – Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Wing-kong, Kwok Ka-kiu and Leung Jee-cheong – for “endangering national security” and other reasons, and the Hong Kong government announced their immediate dismissal from office.

Experts: Beijing kills all

He Mingxiu, a professor at the Department of Sociology at National Taiwan University, pointed out that this means that in Hong Kong, even moderate oppositionists will be eliminated by Beijing. Therefore, it no longer makes much sense for the democrats to remain in the Legislative Council.

He Mingxiu told Voice of America: “As an opposition in the legislature, you can’t oppose it, so what’s the point of staying?”

As early as the end of July, when the HKSAR government made the decision to postpone the Legislative Council election for one year due to the neocon epidemic, the pan-democrats had discussed the dilemma of whether to stay or go, because they did not agree with the legality of the “one-year extension”. The majority of pan-democratic lawmakers accepted the one-year extension on Oct. 1 on the premise that public opinion was equally divided, but they did not accept the legality of the one-year extension,” Ho said.

But during this period, Ho said, there were rumors that the SAR government was using the law to fix the pro-democracy lawmakers who boycotted the council. Therefore, he said, when Beijing’s National People’s Congress (NPC) reaches into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and makes a resolution on DQ members, it means that even if the democrats can stay in office until next September, they will not be able to obstruct the deliberations or voice their opposition within the system.

He said, “If you still think, at this stage, that the parliamentary line is indispensable, I think that might be a little too naive.”

Pro-establishment faction takes full hold of Legislature

The Legislative Council of Hong Kong has a total of 70 seats, of which 35 seats are returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections, while the other 35 seats are indirectly elected from functional constituencies such as the Chamber of Commerce. Based on this “half-baked representative election system”, the Hong Kong Legislative Council has always been held by the pro-China pro-establishment camp, which holds more than 40 seats.

Therefore, even if all the pan-democrats, who account for only 20 seats or so, resign, they cannot paralyze the proceedings of the Legislative Council, because as long as more than half of the members are present, that is, as long as 35 members from the pro-establishment camp are present, the Legislative Council can still function normally. The newest member of the team, the former chief of staff, said: “I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to do that.

According to Hong Kong media reports, Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong government and the pro-establishment camp of the Legislative Council, will take advantage of this “good opportunity without pan-democratic interference” to speed up the promotion of major legislation, including the Tai Lan case of artificial island reclamation plan, the integration of Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macao economic integration policy, the Greater Bay Area out-of-country voting bill, the enactment of the “crime of insulting the police” and other controversial policies, and may even take action to resolve the delay of more than 10 years of Article 23 of the Basic Law, so that the Hong Kong version of the national security law directly into the Hong Kong Basic Law.

The NPC Standing Committee’s DQ resolution sets a bad precedent, giving the Hong Kong chief executive the right to overstep public opinion and legal procedures to disqualify opposition lawmakers at will, according to Ma Ngok, an associate professor at the Department of Political and Administrative Sciences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He said this has dealt a blow to the Legislative Council’s function of overseeing the government, and seriously undermined Hong Kong’s governance system and representative politics.

Hong Kong’s representative politics is said to exist in name only.

He told the Voice of America: “Representative politics in Hong Kong is dead in name only. Because, quite simply, public opinion elects representatives, and in fact, since 2016, the (Beijing) regime has been more free to disqualify them. Before that it also went through a more local, legal process. Now it turns into Beijing can more easily unilaterally decide to disqualify a deputy he doesn’t like. So, into the future, the legitimacy of the entire parliament and elections will be further questioned by many people.”

According to Article 79 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, a decision to disqualify a legislator needs to be approved by two-thirds of the Legislative Council, and can also be appealed through the courts.

But Ma Ngok said Beijing’s latest NPC resolution amounted to a de facto authorization for Hong Kong’s chief executive to make subjective judgments about which lawmakers had violated national security laws or the Basic Law and disqualify them from being elected representatives without the need for legal or statutory procedures. This is not the rule of law, he said, but a very humanistic approach.

Professor He Mingxiu of Taiwan University said Beijing has violated Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” mechanism and set back Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement ever since it enacted Hong Kong’s version of the National Security Law in July this year. And Wednesday’s NPC directly into the Hong Kong Legislative Council, is another big impact, on behalf of the SAR government now not only has the right to “prior DQ” the eligibility of the people’s representatives, even the election, but also can immediately DQ off. He said, once this precedent is set, not only the opposition members of the Legislative Council, but also the democrats in the District Council may not be able to escape the same fate in the future.

Under strong political pressure from Beijing, both Ma Ngok and Ho have little hope that the Legislative Council elections in September next year, or the fairness of the elections at that time, will be fair.

Hong Kong’s executive power dominates under Beijing’s leadership.

In addition, He said, the Chinese Communist Party has never recognized the separation of powers (executive, legislative and judicial) system in Hong Kong. On the contrary, the Chinese Communist Party through a series of purges of foreign nationals or judges sympathetic to the democratic movement in Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s judicial power has already significantly shrunk, and now limit the legislative power, he said, Beijing has not only greatly expanded the executive power in Hong Kong, but also to create “the pillar of executive leadership.

As for the process of the democratic movement in Hong Kong, Professor He said, since the enactment of the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law in July, the situation in Hong Kong has risen to the international level. Of the three main routes, the “street protest route” has become too dangerous and costly, while the “parliamentary protest route”, already weak, has been comprehensively curtailed. Therefore, he said, in the future, Hong Kong people, especially overseas Hong Kong people, should be more active in voicing or expressing their views, in order to gain international attention and keep the Hong Kong issue on the agenda of international dignitaries, for example, how the next U.S. President will express his position on the Hong Kong issue is of great importance.

The Legislative Council will become a rubber stamp

He said: “The Sino-British Joint Declaration (guaranteeing that Hong Kong will remain unchanged for 50 years) is a treaty notarized by the United Nations, and China has not kept its word, which is against the international contract from the point of view of other countries. This is a point of contention for the future.”

Freedom House, a U.S.-based NGO, issued a press release Thursday condemning the Beijing government for using Hong Kong’s version of the National Security Law to politically persecute Hong Kong’s pan-democrats in the name of national security.

Freedom House said that the latest resolution of China’s National People’s Congress represents “another nail in the coffin of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong,” ……. It will also turn Hong Kong’s Legislative Council into another Beijing rubber-stamp institution, which is against the principle of “one country, two systems”.

However, in response to the collective resignation of more than a dozen pan-democratic lawmakers, Zhang Jian, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Studies Department at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, countered that it was their own decision and not one that the Beijing government was happy with.

He told Voice of America that the Beijing government’s determination to maintain Hong Kong’s one country, two systems under the premise of sovereign security remains unchanged. He said Beijing is very concerned about Hong Kong’s future stability and the overall situation, including its development in the new dual-cycle China and the maintenance of its status as an international financial center, rather than the ecology of local politics.

He also cautioned that the resignation of pan-democratic legislators would betray the expectations of Hong Kong voters, and would mean giving up their parliamentary platform, as well as challenging the authority of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Beijing government, which could further negatively affect their eligibility for the next election.

However, Zhang Jian said that the latest political situation in Hong Kong will also bring challenges to the Hong Kong government and the pro-establishment camp. The reason is that the Hong Kong government will have to produce a report card to give Hong Kong people a sense of its ability to govern in order to quell the accumulated public grievances, while Hong Kong people will also assess the pro-establishment camp’s ability to monitor the Hong Kong government during this period.

He said, “In the coming period, it will also be a testing period for the pro-establishment camp to see if they will really cooperate with the SAR government unconditionally or if they will continue to perform the Legislative Council’s function of supervising the government. If they cooperate fully, they may not get the support of voters either.”