Friday, January 28

Hong Kong: Legislative Council “reserved for patriots” is sworn in

The Hong Kong Legislative Council, during the swearing-in of its members, January 3, 2022, with the emblem of ChinaPeter PARKS

The new members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council reserved for “patriots” took an oath of loyalty on Monday, on the first day of the session after their appointment framed by new rules aimed at preventing the presence of any traditional pro-democracy opposition

The 90 lawmakers took part in a symbolic ceremony reflecting the city’s new political reality, with the region’s emblem replaced by that of the People’s Republic of China.

The swearing-in was overseen by local chief executive Carrie Lam, whose government no longer has to respond to opposition in a once turbulent assembly that will now be made up of loyalists for the next four years.

China has reshaped Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image after the huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests of 2019.

A national security law since 2020 criminalizes any act considered as dissenting and new laws have been adopted to purge administrations and institutions of elements perceived as “non-patriots”.

In the December ballot, only 20 of the 90 members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) were elected by direct universal suffrage, with the remaining 70 nominated by committees loyal to Beijing.

The authorities welcomed the result, a legislature composed of patriots and devoid of any “anti-China” element.

A single lawmaker identified as unaffiliated with the establishment managed to avoid vetoes and get elected.

But Tik Chi-yuen does not belong to the traditional pro-democracy bloc.

Most of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy figures are in prison, in exile, or have left politics since Beijing’s crackdown began.

Monday’s ceremony went off without incident, contrasting sharply with that of 2016 when six pro-democracy elected officials used the oath to chant slogans and display banners, before being removed from office.

China touts Hong Kong’s new political system as a way to regain stability and assures pluralism is still tolerated.

Contemptors, including many Western countries, blame Beijing for flouting its promise to maintain Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy for 50 years after it was surrendered by Britain in 1997.

Starry Lee, lawmaker and leader of the region’s main pro-Beijing party, DAB, thanked China for “bringing Hong Kong back on track and bringing stability to the legislature.”

“I am enthusiastic because Hong Kong has entered a new era where we can be rid of political disputes and join hands to improve governance,” she congratulated reporters.

Last week, 89 of 90 lawmakers issued a joint statement in support of the national security police raid on the drafting of a pro-democracy news site, Stand News, and the arrest of several of its responsible.

Mr. Tik is the only one not to have signed the text.

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