A pro-Beijing heavyweight in Hong Kong has expressed reservations about whether 15 opposition lawmakers who resigned last week will be able to stand in Legislative Council elections scheduled for September, citing the central government’s criticism of their protest tactic.
Former Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing also warned Hong Kong officials against taking the support of pro-establishment councillors for granted, now that the pan-democratic camp was gone.
China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, approved a resolution on Wednesday requiring the removal of Legco members found to have violated their duty of allegiance or endangered national security. The decision allowed Hong Kong authorities to disqualify four opposition lawmakers who were earlier barred by electoral officials from running in polls originally slated for this past September over lobbying foreign governments for sanctions. Their 15 colleagues all quit in protest.
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In a strongly worded statement, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office condemned the resignations as a “farce and a blatant challenge to the central government’s power and the authority of the Basic Law”, referring to the financial hub’s mini-constitution.
The central government liaison office also condemned the departures as “irresponsible”.
Tsang was asked in the interview by Emily Lau Wai-hing, former chairwoman of the Democratic Party,
whether the 15 could run in next year’s elections.
“I would be very surprised if the returning officers would not take into consideration the central government’s stance when they screen the nominations of the 15 pan-democrats,” he said.
Tsang, a founding chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party, predicted pro-establishment legislators would face greater public scrutiny with the opposition gone.
“The pressure is now all on the pro-establishment camp,” he said. “In the past, you could still say you had no chance to show your ability because the proceedings of the council were disrupted by the pan-democrats.
“Now you take the floor and all eyes are on you to see how you perform … whether you are only a political vase, a rubber stamp or unable to push the government to act because you are incompetent.”
But Tsang also warned that the administration must not take the backing of pro-establishment councillors for granted.
“In a sense, the DAB, like other political parties, is also an opposition party because we are not the ruling party,” he said. “We did not form the government and we were voted into the legislature to monitor the work of the government.”
Tsang dismissed suggestions the resolution was aimed at driving the entire opposition from Legco.
“It only targeted four pan-democrats,” he said. “I do not believe it was Beijing’s calculated move to sweep all pan-democrats out of the council.”
He believed Beijing would still want to see some opposition voices in Legco in the future.
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