A group of 15 Hong Kong politicians resigned en masse on Wednesday in protest against the disqualification of four lawmakers by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.
The 15 Legislative Council (LegCo) members, from the Civic, Democratic and Labour Parties are set to officially hand in their resignation letters on Thursday.
“In order to fight an authoritative government, we stand for the people in Hong Kong and stand for democracy,” Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai told a press conference.
The move comes in response to a resolution disqualifying four lawmakers from the legislature earlier on Wednesday.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told journalists earlier that the disqualifications had been due to the lawmakers’ failure to satisfactorily pledge allegiance to the legislature.
But Wu dismissed this, saying there was no reason to disqualify the lawmakers for the way they took their oaths and slamming Lam as a “puppet of central government.”
Wu claimed that Wednesday’s decision by the National Peoples Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) was a ploy for Beijing to centralize Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous government.
“We are facing a difficult time, but we will continue our fight for democracy,” he said.
Pro-democracy advocates have long battled to have more of their voices in Hong Kong’s legislature. But China has leaned on city leaders to limit their numbers, resulting in expulsions in the past.
Tension is higher in the wake of China’s imposition of a national security law earlier this year limiting democratic freedoms in the city-state.
Those fears were on display at the press conference held by the resigning lawmakers.
“This is not rule of law or even law by law, its rule by decree,” one of the resigning legislators told journalists. “[It is] an act by Beijing to sound the death knell of Hong Kong’s democracy fight.”
Beijing introduced a sweeping new national security law for Hong Kong in June. It has been widely criticized internationally as a bid to crackdown on dissent.
Under the new law, police have been given further powers to stop and search people, as well as intercept their devices to delete material violating the law, which previously required court approval.
It has effectively brought Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests to a standstill.