The Hong Kong government will issue a law later this week to require local lawmakers to take an oath of allegiance to the Chinese government.
As a result, politicians whose oath is judged to be false or unconvincing will be barred from taking office on the District Council, considered the only fully democratic institution in Hong Kong, as its members are elected by direct vote.
“You can’t say you’re a patriot if you don’t love the leadership of the Communist Party of China or don’t respect it – that doesn’t make sense,” said Eric Tsang, Hong Kong’s secretary of constitutional affairs, which is a semi-autonomous region of China. “Patriotism is holistic love”.
Any congressman who fails the loyalty test will have his or her term suspended and then be prosecuted. If the disqualification is confirmed, the defendant could be prevented from running for elections for five years.
The new law opens the way to massively punish pro-democracy Hong Kong politicians, who account for nearly 90% of the 452 seats on the Hong Kong District Council. The move could prevent a massive defeat at the polls of politicians aligned with Beijing, as it did in 2019.
The new rule will be debated on March 17 by the Hong Kong Legislative Council, dominated by politicians aligned with Beijing. But before that, the Chinese government is expected to determine further changes to Hong Kong’s electoral rules as early as March.
On Monday (22), Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau sector at the State Council of China, said that Hong Kong can only be governed by patriots. This, he said, excludes “anti-China troublemakers”. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam also supported the move.
“This is just an act to legalize the brutal force to destroy the voices of democracy,” said Henry Wong, a district pro-democracy adviser, who has not yet decided to take the oath.
Beijing has tightened its grip on Hong Kong since last year, after months of protests calling for more democracy in the region, a Chinese territory whose citizens have more rights than in the rest of the country, including freedom of speech and the press.
The security law established the possibility of imprisonment for anyone who criticized the government. As a result, the groups that organized the demonstrations dissolved and several activists were arrested.
China’s pressure on Hong Kong has drawn criticism from the US government. However, Beijing argues that foreign countries should not interfere in their domestic policies.