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Washington, November 12, 2020 —  The disqualification of prodemocracy members of the Legislative Council and subsequent resignation of the rest of the prodemocracy bloc leaves Hong Kong with a rubber-stamp body willing to enact Beijing’s preferred policies.
 
In response to Hong Kong authorities’ move to disqualify four prodemocracy members of the Legislative Council (Legco), and the subsequent resignation of the 15 remaining prodemocracy Legco members, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Today’s announcement of the disqualification of prodemocracy members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is yet another nail in the coffin of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. 
 
“The ejection of moderate legislators on spurious grounds violates due process for those disqualified, and ignores the will of the voters who selected them. The subsequent resignation of the remaining prodemocracy legislators confirms that the Legco will be nothing more than a rubber-stamp body for Beijing, which has abandoned all pretense of upholding the ‘one country, two systems’ model that was supposed to protect the basic rights of Hong Kongers until 2047.”
 
“These actions come on the heels of the National Security Law imposed in late June, which sparked an ongoing crackdown on prodemocracy voices and independent media. The people of Hong Kong for years have held massive demonstrations demanding greater democratic representation in Hong Kong, yet the actions of the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong government reveal a clear and unquestionable contempt for government accountability and the popular will.”
 
“These actions are, unfortunately, in keeping with the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to tighten control at home and expand repression abroad. The United States has already imposed sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials for the violation of basic human rights. The US government should review these latest developments to determine if additional sanctions are warranted, and other countries that have not yet imposed sanctions should do so.”
 
Background

On November 11, the Hong Kong government disqualified four prodemocracy lawmakers in the Legco—Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok, and Kenneth Leung. Their removal was made possible by new powers granted by the Chinese Communist Party that allow Hong Kong authorities to remove Legco members who support Hong Kong’s independence, or otherwise fail to demonstrate sufficient loyalty to China. The 15 remaining prodemocracy members of the Legco resigned in protest of their colleagues’ removal.

The developments followed the implementation in late June of a repressive National Security Law, violations of which can result in sentences as long as life in prison. The law’s announcement had an almost immediate chilling effect: Hong Kong police denied permits for major demonstrations that were permitted previously; the prominent prodemocracy group Demosistō disbanded; and large numbers of Hong Kong Twitter users announced their departure from the social media platform—which is banned in mainland China—for fear of legal reprisals for their posts. Students have since been arrested under the law’s provisions over social media posts deemed to incite secession, while Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai—along with four executives from its parent company and two of Lai’s sons—were also arrested under suspicion of violating the law. Twelve Hong Kong citizens ranging in age from 16 to 30 remain in detention on the mainland after the Chinese coastguard intercepted their boat as they were attempting to flee to Taiwan.

Separately, the 2020 Legco elections have been postponed by one year. While the delay was attributed to the health risks of COVID-19, in light of the ongoing crackdown on prodemocracy voices and the fact that COVID-19–related deaths in Hong Kong remain comparatively low, the international community is rightly concerned that this postponement is politically motivated.

Hong Kong is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020. China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020. Freedom House is also following the deteriorating conditions in Hong Kong and their global implications in its monthly China Media Bulletin.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights. www.freedomhouse.org