Hong Kong disqualified four opposition lawmakers on Wednesday after China’s top legislative body passed a resolution giving local authorities the power to expel legislators without having to go through the courts, according to reports.
The move stripped the seats of Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Ka-ki, and Dennis Kwok, lawmakers of the liberal Civic Party, as well as Kenneth Leung of the Professionals Guild, a pro-democracy parliamentary group, according to Reuters.
The city government said in a statement the four legislators were expelled from the assembly for endangering national security.
Earlier reports indicated the lawmakers would be accused of filibustering meetings and violating their oaths of office.
In July, the opposition lawmakers were barred from contesting the 2020 Hong Kong Legislative Council (LEGCO) elections, after they called on foreign governments to sanction Beijing and Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported. They were, however, allowed to serve out a one-year term extended by Beijing.
The elections were postponed a year by the government, due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
At least 19 pro-democracy lawmakers are formally expected to announce their resignation Wednesday after Beijing disqualified the four legislators. They had attempted to stand up against what many believe is Beijing’s grip over the financial hub, amid promises of autonomy.
The convener of the pro-democracy camp, Wu Chi-wai, said earlier this week that any move by Beijing to disqualify the legislators and prevent them from doing their duties would be “ridiculous.”
“It reflects they are ruthless, and they disrespect the Basic Law,” he said, referring to the mini-constitution that governs the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong after the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.
Kwok said that disqualifications would be a “serious departure” framework under which Hong Kong enjoys freedoms not found in mainland China.
“It seems like those in power cannot tolerate opposition anymore,” said Kwok. “They’re adamant in getting rid of all opposition in the Legislative Council, and they are adamant in getting rid of all Democrats.”
China has denied intruding on Hong Kong’s freedoms, however, authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing have moved swiftly to limit dissent after anti-government protests took hold in the city last year, according to Reuters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report