Beijing holds all cards in SAR legislature

Editorial | Mary Ma 12 Nov 2020

Although the disqualification of four pro-democracy lawmakers by Beijing and the subsequent resignation of 15 pan-dems from the Legislative Council was a foregone conclusion, it somehow marked a regression to the time of the provisional legislature just before the 1997 handover.

We are now at the start of a second transition.

If the transition beginning 23 years ago charted a course towards a liberal society, Hong Kong is now leading a course that is, at worst, in the way of Macau or, at best, Singapore, where opposition voices are all but absent in the legislature.

Even if the pan-dems retain access to Legco documents through political allies such as Pierre Chan Pui-yin of the medical functional constituency or if they form a shadow legislature, there is very little they can do further.

Accusations cited by Beijing as it banned the lawmakers - three from the Civic Party and one from the Professionals Guild - included seeking foreign interference in Hong Kong affairs, promoting independence, threatening national security and refusing to acknowledge Beijing's sovereignty over Hong Kong.

These were serious accusations within the bounds of the controversial national security law.

Will there be further consequences following their disqualification? While Beijing leaders may be using this drastic move to test the bottom line of Joe Biden, who is projected by the media to be the next US president, what may happen to the four ousted lawmakers next must be closely monitored.

Understandably, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor could not be happier, as she openly admitted at the press event. Undoubtedly, officials and Legco security guards will be equally happy as they no longer need to spend endless hours at meetings or carry unruly members out of the chamber.

But yesterday's dramatic development was many steps backwards for local democratic development.

It is too early to say that everything will be alright without an opposition voice.

It was only recently that Lam pleaded that all lawmakers - including the four singled out by Beijing this time - should be allowed to keep their seats in the extended Legco, saying their earlier disqualification from contesting the since-cancelled September election was unrelated to the extended term. Obviously, Beijing leaders have lost patience after they continued to filibuster.

With the central government insisting it had merely acted in response to the SAR administration's request for a decision on the lawmakers, Lam will have to take all the responsibility if the situation moves towards a future not entirely wished by policymakers.

And "Hong Kong add oil; Together we stand" and other rhetorical protest slogans screamed by opposition lawmakers like Claudia Mo Man-ching are a bad reflection on them.

Sadly, the opposition camp has been riddled with partisan interests throughout years of the post-handover transition right up until now.

As the second phase of the transition begins, Legco is expected to be walking a monotonous path.

It's true that, as Lam insisted, her pro-establishment supporters can equally play the opposition role in the legislature, scrutinizing government policies as vigorously as she would like them to do.

But they will be loyal opposition: opposition on livelihood matters, but loyal on political affairs.

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