World

Power swings further to pro-China camp

Four pro-democracy lawmakers expelled from Hong Kong's Parliament

HONG KONG: Four pro-democracy lawmakers were disqualified from Hong Kong's Parliament yesterday.

The judgment means that the balance of power in the partially elected legislature swings further to the pro-China camp as pro-democracy lawmakers lose the one-third proportion of seats they need to block government bills.

Former Umbrella Movement protest leader Nathan Law was among the group barred by the High Court judgment in a case brought by the city's Beijing-friendly government.

It sought to remove them from the legislature for changing their oaths of office to reflect their frustrations with Chinese authorities last year.

The judgment comes after Beijing issued a special interpretation of Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, to insist that oaths be taken in a "sincere and solemn" manner.

The High Court said the interpretation was "binding" on all Hong Kong courts and its decision to bar the four was not politically motivated.

"The word 'solemn' bears the commonly understood meaning of being dignified and formal," the judgment said.

ACTIVISTS

Concerns that China is squeezing Hong Kong have sparked calls by activists for self-determination or even independence for the city, which have angered Beijing.

The dismissed legislators were not staunchly pro-independence but two of them have advocated self-determination.

Previously, two pro-independence legislators were disqualified by the High Court after they inserted expletives and draped themselves with "Hong Kong is not China" flags during their oath-taking.

The cases against them and the four lawmakers were initiated under the previous administration, led by unpopular former chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

He was succeeded by Ms Carrie Lam on July 1.

In her first interview since taking over, she said there were concerns over "individual incidents" in the city and it was her duty to accurately reflect them to the government in Beijing.

"I would say there are worries, there are anxieties, there is a strong perception over individual isolated incidents.

"But unless you've got evidence to prove there are clear breaches, then it will remain at the level of anxieties and perception," Mrs Lam said, without elaborating. - WIRE SERVICES

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