HONG KONG, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's government will
gazette a bill later this week that will require community level
district councils to pledge an oath of allegiance to the
Chinese-ruled city's mini-constitution, further stifling
Secretary for Mainland and Constitutional Affairs Eric Tsang
said politicians deemed insincere would be blocked from office,
releasing details of the bill a day after a senior official in
China's cabinet said provisions should be made to ensure
"patriots" were running Hong Kong.
"The law will fulfill the constitutional responsibility of
the government," Tsang said.
"You cannot say that you are patriotic but you do not love
the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party or you do not
respect it - this does not make sense," Tsang added. "Patriotism
is holistic love."
Any district councillor suspended from office after failing
the loyalty test would be sent to court for formal
disqualification, and banned from contesting elections for five
The bill potentially paves the way for the mass
disqualification of pro-democracy politicians who took almost
ninety percent of 452 district council seats in Hong Kong in the
2019 elections, humiliating the pro-Beijing camp.
While district councils decide little beyond community-level
issues, such as garbage collection and bus stops, Beijing and
Hong Kong authorities are determined that all public
institutions in the city must be run by people loyal to Beijing.
On Monday, Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao
Affairs Office of China's State Council, said Hong Kong can only
be ruled by "patriots", a term he said includes people who love
China, its constitution and the Communist Party and excludes
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam endorsed Beijing's
stance on Tuesday, saying the changes were needed to stop hatred
of China and sustain the 'one country, two systems' governance
model for the Asian financial hub.
Hong Kong's Legislative Council will debate the bill on
Before that, China's parliament will convene from March 5,
and is expected to impose a series of electoral changes on Hong
Kong, which critics say would strengthen the authoritarian turn
taken in the city following the imposition of a sweeping
national security law in June 2020.
Tsang announced that once the oath-taking law is passed,
four councillors would be disqualified given their earlier
disqualification from standing for Legislative Council
Henry Wong, a pro-democracy councillor from suburban Yuen
Long, said he was still deciding whether to take the oath under
the new law.
"This is just an act to legalise their brutal force in
destroying democracy voices," he said.
The district councils are the only fully democratic
institution in Hong Kong. Its Legislative Council is stacked
with pro-Beijing figures, while its chief executive is not
The district councils account for about a tenth of the votes
on a 1,200 member committee that meets every five years to elect
the city's leader. That committee, by design, is also stacked
with pro-Beijing figures.
(Reporting by Sharon Tam and Jessie Pang; Writing by Greg
Torode; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)