Head of pro-democracy camp defends lawmakers' mass resignation as rivals cry foul

Published (HKT): 2020.11.15 22:18

The convenor of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp said there was no room for concession with the government, and that opposition lawmakers had no choice but to resign en masse to show their disapproval after the mainland’s top legislative body disqualified four of their members last week.

Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai said on Sunday that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee had ignored the Basic Law — the agreement that provided for Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy when it was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997 — in its decision. The Hong Kong government was also “irredeemable” because it showed itself incapable of self-reflection, Wu said at a City Forum appearance.

The NPCSC on Wednesday ousted four pan-democratic lawmakers, saying that they could be disqualified without going through Hong Kong’s courts if they were deemed threats to national security.

Asked if the pro-democracy camp will contest the legislative election next year, Wu said that further discussion was needed. Even if they decide to run, the election will probably be seen by voters as a referendum to protest the government, he said.

Pro-Beijing heavyweight Tam Yiu-chung criticized the democrats' decision to resign, saying it was a challenge to Beijing’s authority and might be grounds for future disqualification if they were to run for election again.

Tam also rejected the notion that the Legislative Council had become a “rubber stamp,” saying that the democrats had been using obstructionist tactics, and their departure will allow the pro-establishment camp to solve livelihood issues.

Tam, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the NPCSC, said that the lawmaking body was “granted a lot of power under the constitution” but would not use it arbitrarily in Hong Kong.

Separately, pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow accused democrats of colluding with the United States, which he said was valid grounds for disqualification.

“The four people apparently show no remorse at all, and removing them from the seats in order to make sure that they cannot continue jeopardizing our LegCo, as well as our ‘one country, two systems’ and therefore the interests of Hong Kong people, makes perfect sense,” Chow told public broadcaster RTHK.

Beijing’s tactics have forced the pro-democracy lawmakers into an extreme position, and their decision to quit was supported by a substantial number of voters, said Li Pang-kwong, Director of the Public Governance Programme at Lingnan University.

Hongkongers can no longer expect the legislature to function as a check and balance on the government on issues such as the large-scale reclamation project off Lantau Island, Li said.

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