Entire pro-democracy caucus calls it quits . . .
Hong Kong plunged further into crisis this week after 15 pro-democracy opposition lawmakers – the entire pro-democracy caucus – announced their resignation on Wednesday. The elected legislators resigned en masse in protest over Beijing’s expulsion of four of their colleagues for alleged dissent. Events were set in motion Wednesday when China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) passed a resolution requiring the Hong Kong government to disqualify any legislators engaged in acts such as endangering national security or who refuse to recognize Chinese sovereignty over the city. The Hong Kong government took up the NPCSC’s resolution and immediately disqualified Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok, and Kenneth Leung.
Opposition effectively ended . . .
Previously, pro-democratic lawmakers occupied 19 of the Hong Kong legislature’s 70 seats. With only two independent politicians remaining, there will be effectively no opposition in the city’s legislative council. Democratic Party Chair Wu Chi-wai said of Beijing’s move, “all the power will be centralized with the chief executive – a puppet of the central government. So today is the end of ‘one country, two systems.’” Pro-establishment lawmakers insisted that the legislature will not be a rubber stamp and would “act more diligently” to monitor the government. Chinese State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office described the legislators' mass resignation as a “farce.”
Western countries respond . . .
Beijing’s move to disqualify opposition lawmakers drew condemnation from Western democracies, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia. U.K. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said his government is considering targeted sanctions against relevant officials – frequently called ‘Magnitsky Sanctions’ – in response to Beijing’s move, widely seen as a “clear breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that guaranteed Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy after the 1997 handover. However, the U.K. government has not indicated who would be on the sanction list. In Canada, Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino announced that Canada will open a new pathway to residency for Hong Kong youths. The new program will allow recent post-secondary graduates from Hong Kong to apply for an open work permit, which could be valid for up to three years and open a pathway to permanent resident status.