Politicians swear allegiance to Hong Kong, but face the test of government’s patriotism

FILE PHOTO: A general view of skyline buildings, in Hong Kong
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the buildings on the skyline in Hong Kong
FILE PHOTO: A general view of the buildings on the skyline in Hong Kong, China July 13, 2021. Reuters/Tyrone Siu/File photo

September 10, 2021

by Sarah Cheng

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Two dozen democratically elected politicians took an oath of allegiance to Hong Kong under a new patriotic law on Friday, but some opposition councilors could face disqualification if their oaths are deemed disloyal. Is.

The government enacted a law earlier this year that tightened the test of patriotic loyalty by forcing all civil servants to take an oath of allegiance to Hong Kong and its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

As part of a campaign to put “patriots” at the top of Hong Kong’s institutions, officials have previously disqualified opposition lawmakers and candidates, citing media statements or campaign speeches they said were intended to undermine overall interests. There was a “trend”. in Hong Kong.

Home Affairs Secretary Casper Tsui told reporters that the government would issue a statement later on Friday about how many politicians who were sworn in had passed the loyalty test.

Of the 24 politicians elected as district councilors who took oath on Friday in 2019, 15 were from the democratic opposition camp. The 25th leader who took oath did not come.

Peter Choi wrote in a Facebook post, “My aim has always been to monitor the government, not pledge allegiance to the regime, which he ended with popular democratic slogans during the 2019 anti-government protests.

While district councils make little decisions from community-level issues such as garbage collection and bus stops, Beijing and Hong Kong officials have insisted that all public institutions in the city should be run by people loyal to Beijing.

Nearly 90% of the 452 district council seats in Hong Kong went to pro-democracy politicians after a humiliating 2019 election for the pro-Beijing camp amid huge anti-government protests.

But more than 250 district councilors have already resigned, either because of an investigation against them under a new national security law, or amid unconfirmed media reports that they were ineligible to refund any public money they received while in office. can force.

Beijing effectively ended Hong Kong’s biggest push for democracy last year with the enactment of a comprehensive national security law that punishes it as subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.

China then made radical changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system and political structure, reduced democratic participation and introduced a screening and screening mechanism that ensures that all politicians and those seeking public office are “patriotic”. Huh.

Pro-Beijing District Councilor Kwok Wai-Keung said Friday’s ceremony is one of the milestones of implementing “patriots’ rule over Hong Kong”.

Mainland and Constitutional Affairs Secretary Eric Tsang defined patriotism as an “overall love” for China, including love for the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

The District Council is the only fully democratic body in Hong Kong. Its Legislative Council is lined with pro-Beijing figures, while its chief executive is not directly elected.

Disqualified councilors would be immediately suspended from office and, upon court conviction, removed and then barred from standing in election for five years.

(Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry)

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