Hong Kong’s pro-establishment district councillors are urging the government to amend necessary laws so their opposition rivals can be unseated if they violate the oaths they are due to take as early as next month.
The call on Monday came just days after the government confirmed more than 400 district councillors – mostly opposition activists elected in a landslide victory at the height of the 2019 protests – would be required to pledge allegiance to the city, a move interpreted by some as paving the way for mass disqualifications.
The administration is set to introduce an amendment to the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance after the Lunar New Year holiday that will bring it into alignment with the national security law. The Beijing-imposed legislation requires any resident “who stands for election or assumes public office” to swear to uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, and pledge allegiance to the city.
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In their petition, 86 pro-establishment district councillors urged the government to both speed up its work and specifically amend the District Councils Ordinance to stipulate that anyone breaching their oath could be stripped of their seat.
“The district councils, over the past year, have lost their function as a consultative body and become a platform for the opposition camp to smear the central and the local governments,” lawmaker Edward Lau Kwok-fan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said after a group meeting with Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai on Monday.
“The Districts Councils Ordinance should be amended so district councillors can be disqualified for violating their oath. A task force to be led by the home affairs chief should also be established to execute the implementation,” he said.
The oath-taking should be administered either by Tsui, who is also a DAB member, or another high-ranking official, added Lau, who lost his own North district council seat in November 2019.
Another DAB district councillor, Lau Pui-yuk, of Sham Shui Po, accused her opposition counterparts of preventing administration officials from attending meetings over the past year.
She also proposed the government take the lead in vetting district council funding requests, claiming the opposition bloc was wasting public funds on “political shows”.
But Democratic Party leader Lo Kin-hei, chairman of the Southern District Council, slammed the government for moving the goalposts, even while mocking the move as unsurprising.
“Actually, all of us have already signed a declaration form when we signed up for the race,” he said, referring to the requirement that hopefuls pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and uphold the Basic Law.
“It is really unnecessary and pointless to ask us to go through all this again.”
Lo also hit back at the pro-establishment councillors’ claims of misspent money, saying the government had, in fact, blocked the council’s funding proposals.
“We suggested outsourcing a company to do deep cleaning for residents during the pandemic, but the government turned it down, as they claimed other departments were already handling it,” Lo said.
“The pro-establishment bloc can propose handing the vetting power to the government if they trust it, but the government’s handling of the pandemic has already fully exposed its [level of] ability.”
Lo added that rather than opposition-led councils banning officials from meetings, it was the Home Affairs Department which, citing the pandemic, had refused to invite officials and arrange meeting venues.
In 2019, the opposition camp swept 392 of the city’s 452 district council seats in an unprecedented landslide election victory. Since then, the relationship between the councils and the government has reached a new low.
According to a tally by the Post, some 50 elected opposition councillors, or 13 per cent of the bloc, have been arrested over offences including obstruction of police, illegal assembly, misconduct in public office or conspiracy to defraud in relation to expense claims for the Legislative Council elections that were postponed for one year.