A Hong Kong court stripped four pro-democracy lawmakers of their seats on the Legislative Council on Friday, a decision that — if upheld — will effectively turn it into a rubber stamp parliament for Beijing.
With the loss of the four, the alliance of pro-democratic lawmakers lose their veto power against controversial government policies.
Nathan Law (Hong Kong’s youngest lawmaker), professor Edward Yiu, veteran lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-Lai, a social science lecturer, all lost their seats.
The lawmakers plan to appeal.
Should the pro-establishment politicians remain aligned on the council, then they would be able to pass bills such as one that would introduce a national security law that had been vetoed by the alliance in the past.
The court disqualified the four for deviating from the standard oath of office when they were sworn in late last year. Their departure from the script was seen as a defiant act toward Beijing.
Law had added a quote from Gandhi, while Yiu added a sentence saying he will “uphold procedural justice in Hong Kong, fight for genuine universal suffrage and serve the city’s sustainable development.”
Leung had held aloft a yellow umbrella, a symbol of the 2014 pro-democracy protests. Lau read each word of the oath with six second gaps in-between.
The previous Hong Kong administration had launched a legal challenge against the four, after Beijing offered its interpretation of the rules governing the legislature.
Two other pro-democracy lawmakers — Sixtus Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching — were ousted by the courts and Beijing in December last year.
Law’s political party on Friday accused Beijing of “manifest interference” in Hong Kong’s legislative affairs.
Hong Kong last month marked the 20th anniversary of its handover to China after more than 150 years of British rule. China promised Hong Kong autonomy from the mainland, but there are signs of increased involvement by Beijing in Hong Kong affairs.
The council was critical in vetoing a controversial electoral reform bill that would have seen candidates for Hong Kong’s top leader — the chief executive — pre-screened by a mostly pro-Beijing committee before they’re allowed to stand for public election.
The bill triggered the 2014 Umbrella Movement, a 79-day peaceful pro-democracy protest that that saw around 100,000 people take to the streets at its height, and police use teargas and pepper spray to deter them.