Hong Kong leaders must pledge loyalty to — and demonstrate "love" for — China's communist party in order to stay in office, Reuters reported.
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Community-level district councils must pledge the oath of allegiance to Hong Kong's mini-constitution, according to a bill the Chinese-ruled city is announcing this week, the outlet said.
Secretary for Mainland and Constitutional Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said politicians viewed as insincere would be barred from office, Reuters reported.
"You cannot say that you are patriotic, but you do not love the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, or you do not respect it — this does not make sense," Tsang said, according to the outlet. "Patriotism is holistic love."
The district councils are the only fully democratic institution in Hong Kong, the outlet noted, adding that the city's Legislative Council is "stacked with pro-Beijing figures, while its chief executive is not directly elected."
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Any district councillor suspended from office after failing the loyalty test would be sent to court for formal disqualification, and banned from contesting elections for five years.
The bill potentially paves the way for the mass disqualification of pro-democracy politicians who took almost ninety percent of 452 district council seats in Hong Kong in the 2019 elections, humiliating the pro-Beijing camp.
While district councils decide little beyond community-level issues, such as garbage collection and bus stops, Beijing and Hong Kong authorities are determined that all public institutions in the city must be run by people loyal to Beijing.
Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of China's State Council, on Monday said Hong Kong can only be ruled by "patriots," the outlet reported. As for who qualifies as "patriots," Baolong told Reuters they include those who love China, its constitution, and the Communist Party. But anti-China "troublemakers" do not qualify as "patriots," he added to the outlet.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday endorsed Beijing's stance, the outlet said, and added that the loyalty oath is necessary to halt hatred of China and sustain the "one country, two systems" of government model.
Henry Wong, a pro-democracy councillor, told Reuters he's still deciding whether to take the oath: "This is just an act to legalize their brutal force in destroying democracy voices."
Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been battling against communist China's takeover since last year. Three of them were sentenced to serve jail time in December for involvement in demonstrations.