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Sixteen More Hong Kong Democratically-elected District Councillors Ousted Over Loyalty Oaths, as Democrats Left in the Minority

The oath-taking ceremony was administered by Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui. credit: GovHK
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 Selina Cheng | Hong Kong Free Press

Only around 16 percent of the pro-democracy district councillors elected in 2019 are left in office. Among those unseated on Thursday – without explanation – was Roy Kwong.

The Hong Kong government has disqualified another 16 district councillors from the New Territories following the final oaths of loyalty ceremony. It leaves about 60 pro-democracy councillors in office – a fraction of the approximately 388 seats once held by the pro-democracy camp after they swept the elections.

The Home Affairs Bureau announced on Thursday its final list of district councillors whose oaths of allegiance to the government were considered invalid. The government’s oath administrator initially questioned the validity of oaths offered by 17 councillors, with one opting for resignation before the final decision came down. It left 16 disqualified.

The last batch of district councillors disqualified for invalid oaths were unseated with immediate effect, including Roy Kwong.

Kwong was a prominent figure during the 2019 protests, and one of the few democrats spared any protest or national security-related prosecutions.

Pro-democracy candidates took control of 17 of the 18 district councils during the 2019 November election, in the wake of the anti-extradition bill protests.

Roy Kwong
Roy Kwong. credit: Etan Liam, via Flickr

But the government introduced mandatory oaths of allegiance for the city’s local-level representatives earlier this year, after requiring all civil servants to take the same pledge shortly after Beijing’s passing of the national security law last June.

The polls were the only fully democratic elections in the city.

Over 260 resigned

The introduction of the oaths, and the ensuing rumours that salary and benefits will be recouped from councillors who faced disqualification, prompted over 260 individuals to resign ahead of the ceremonies.

Following four oath-taking ceremonies, which began in early September, oaths taken by 49 district councillors have been ruled invalid, although no explanation was provided. Under the amended Oaths and Declarations Ordinance, the disqualified district councillors will be banned from standing in elections for the next five years.

In other words, the oaths taken by 147 councillors were ruled valid – of which 120 were directly elected, and 27 were ex-officio rural committee members. 

Four others requested to delay their oath-taking. The government also cancelled the oath-taking ceremony for Leung Kam-wai, who is in custody on national security charges, awaiting trial.

In December, 2019, Chief Executive Carrie Lam vowed that the new pro-democracy councillors would be respected and treated equally, though said they should “respect the conventions and rules” established over the year.

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