Holding hands in a defiant final salute, leaders of Hong Kong’s democracy movement admitted that they had lost their fight on Wednesday.
Claudio Mo, a pro-independence lawmaker, said a new Chinese law that bans politicians from the Legislative Council who are not loyal to China has “practically put a nail into Hong Kong’s democracy fight.”
Fifteen of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers submitted a group resignation on Wednesday in protest after four lawmakers were banned minutes after Beijing passed yet another brutal new restriction on the formerly independent city-state.
Early Wednesday, Beijing passed the controversial measure that disqualifies any lawmakers who refuse to acknowledge China’s sovereignty over the city. The restriction, which came into effect immediately, greatly compromises any hopes that the “one country, two systems” status quo, which allowed Hong Kong a modicum of freedom from the mainland, would remain intact. “From now on, anyone deemed to be politically incorrect will not be allowed to run in the election,” Mo told reporters. “They are making sure only patriots can join Hong Kong's political election.”
Hong Kong Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai told reporters, “We can no longer tell the world that we still have 'one country, two systems,' this declares its official death.”
The U.K. handed over control of Hong Kong to China in 1997, but the former British colony maintained significant autonomy until 2014 when Beijing started clamping down. Things came to a head in 2019 when China introduced an extradition law that would have made it possible to extradite Hong Kong pro-democracy dissidents to mainland China for prosecution. The city has been a tinderbox since then, with frequent violent protests marked by multiple arrests.
China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) passed the controversial measure meant to block pro-democracy politicians on Wednesday, after which pro-democracy legislators Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, and Dennis Kwok of the Civic Party and Kenneth Leung were kicked out of the city’s Legislative Council. Hong Kong's increasingly beleaguered leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, said Wednesday at a press conference that any lawmakers who do not respect China’s sovereignty “cannot genuinely perform their duties as legislators.”
Lam added that she welcomed “diverse opinion in the Legislative Council and respects the checks and balances,” but added that “all of those responsibilities must be exercised responsibly.”
Analysts say that the pro-democracy minority legislators in Hong Kong’s 70-seat city parliament resorted to filibustering on measures meant to chip away at Hong Kong’s social freedoms, which frustrated the Chinese Communist Party majority.
Emily Lau, former chair for the Democratic Party, told CNN she believed the Hong Kong government and the ruling Communist Party in Beijing had passed the measure to hasten the clampdown on freedoms. “It is absolutely devastating,” Lau told CNN. “We have procedures in the Basic Law if you want to kick out a legislator, but they have just ignored all that... there’s no rule of law. It’s sending a very bad signal to Hong Kong and the world.”