US condemns ousting of pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong legislature

Lalit K Jha
·4-min read

Washington, Nov 12 (PTI) The US has strongly condemned Beijing's move to disqualify four pro-democracy legislators from Hong Kong Legislative Council.

This leaves no doubt that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has flagrantly violated its international commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and its promises to the people of Hong Kong, including those under the basic law, said the US National Security Advisor Robert C O'Brien on Wednesday.

''One Country, Two Systems' is now merely a fig leaf covering for the CCP's expanding one party dictatorship in Hong Kong,' he said.

The Hong Kong legislature on Wednesday disqualified four pro-democracy legislators -- Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung. Following the move, the remaining 15 pro-democracy lawmakers also announced that they would resign en masse.

The disqualification of the lawmakers came after the National People's Congress Standing Committee passed a resolution stating that those who support Hong Kong's independence or refuse to acknowledge China's sovereignty over the city, as well as commit acts that threaten national security or ask external forces to interfere in the city's affairs, should be disqualified.

Beijing has in recent months moved to clamp down on opposition voices in Hong Kong with the imposition of a national security law, after months of anti-government protests last year rocked the city.

'The United States will continue to utilise all the powers granted under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, and the Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization to identify and sanction those responsible for extinguishing Hong Kong's freedom,” O’Brien said.

A mass resignation by the pro-democracy camp would leave Hong Kong's legislature with only pro-Beijing lawmakers. The pro-Beijing camp already makes up a majority of the city's legislature, and would allow lawmakers to pass bills favoured by China unopposed.

In a separate joint statement, Senators Marco Rubio and Jeff Merkley said democracy in Hong Kong is gasping for air.

“China’s unelected and unaccountable National People’s Congress Standing Committee took another grave step toward stripping the people of Hong Kong of their sacred rights and freedoms — this time by ousting Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok, and Kenneth Leung from the city’s Legislative Council,” the statement said.

“These lawmakers were duly elected by their constituents, but forced out of their positions by a new directive from Beijing that disqualifies any advocate or supporter of Hong Kong’s autonomy — which Beijing promised to protect — from holding elected office,” it said.

It is critical that the US and all allies of freedom come together to recognise and condemn the undeniable and far reaching ramifications of Beijing's authoritarian powergrab, which has wiped out what little remained of Hong Kong's democratic political system and violates China's treaty obligations, Rubio and Merkley said.

“We stand in solidarity with the unseated public servants, their 15 colleagues who have resigned in protest of today’s crackdown, and all Hong Kongers who have stood up time and time again in the face of a brutal regime for the sake of their city and the values they hold dear. You are heard, seen, and supported around the world — and there will be consequences for Beijing’s actions,” they said.

Rubio and Merkley are members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and serve as co-chair and commissioner, respectively, of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).

The disqualification of pro-democracy members of the Legislative Council and subsequent resignation of the rest of the pro-democracy bloc leaves Hong Kong with a rubber-stamp body willing to enact Beijing’s preferred policies, Freedom House said.

Freedom House is a US government-funded non-profit and non-governmental organisation that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.

“Today’s announcement of the disqualification of prodemocracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is yet another nail in the coffin of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong,” said Michael J Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

“These actions are, unfortunately, in keeping with the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to tighten control at home and expand repression abroad. The US has already imposed sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials for the violation of basic human rights. The US government should review these latest developments to determine if additional sanctions are warranted, and other countries that have not yet imposed sanctions should do so,' he said. PTI LKJ SCY SCY