In the Hong Kong legislature, pro-democracy lawmakers will resign "en masse" if Beijing's top law-making committee moves to disqualify four of their peers for violating the Basic Law of the semi-autonomous city, the bloc's convener said Monday.
The danger came ahead of a meeting of one of the top law-making bodies in China, with Hong Kong media reporting it was considering disqualifying four of the legislators of the semi-autonomous city.
Since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in response to huge and often violent protests last year, including political disqualifications, arrests for social media posts, and activists fleeing overseas, Hong Kong's democracy camp has been under sustained attack.
Through making quorum calls and filibustering in the chamber, local pro-Beijing media reported Monday, the National People's Congress Standing Committee will consider purging the four for violating their oaths.
Wu Chi-wai, head of the Democratic Party, told a press conference on Monday, "The pro-democratic camp has decided that if the NPCSC decides to disqualify legislators, all pro-democratic legislators will resign en masse."
We have to tell the central government and we have to inform the people of Hong Kong that it is totally ridiculous (what) the central government is trying to do with the representatives of the people in Hong Kong, "Wu said."
The chamber passes the laws of Hong Kong, but only half of its seats are directly elected — and a complicated appointment system ensures a handsome majority is almost guaranteed for the city's pro-Beijing establishment.
With the pro-democracy minority often resorting to filibustering, chanting, and obstruction to try to stop bills they oppose, scuffles and protests routinely break out.
A mass resignation would leave the legislature almost entirely composed of those who toe the line of Beijing.
Dennis Kwok, a Democratic lawmaker, slammed the reports that members would be thrown out for filibustering, saying in the chamber the tactic "followed the rule of procedures."
"It appears that those in power can no longer tolerate opposition," he added.
During the Hong Kong protests, more than 10,000 people were arrested, and the courts are now filled with trials — many of them involving opposition lawmakers and prominent activists.
Beijing bypassed the legislature and imposed a sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong in late June in direct response to the protests.
After the end of British colonial rule in 1997, critics say its broadly worded provisions are a hammer blow to the flickering freedoms that China promised Hong Kong could maintain.