Pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong have resigned en masse after four of them were disqualified under a law imposed by China banning independence campaigners from holding office.
Authorities in Hong Kong said in a statement the four legislators – Kwok Ka-ki, Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung – were expelled from the assembly for endangering national security.
The 19 members of the opposition earlier said they would resign in protest.
The banning of the four followed meetings of China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The body passed a resolution to disqualify those who support Hong Kong’s independence or refused to acknowledge China’s sovereignty over the city, China’s official Xinhua news agency said.
Asking outsiders to interfere in the region’s affairs is also prohibited under the new law, as is any act that threatens national security.
At a news conference confirming their disqualification, Dennis Kwok said: “From our point of view this is clearly in breach of basic law and our rights to participate in public affairs, and a failure to observe due process”.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive said lawmakers unable to uphold the basic law and pledge allegience to Hong Kong SAR should be disqualified as legilators at a briefing on Wednesday.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said it was it was necessary to maintain the rule of law and to keep to and improve the “one country, two systems’ principle”, which defines Hong Kong’s relationship with China.
The mass resignation leaves Hong Kong’s parliament with only pro-Beijing lawmakers, who already make up the majority in the chamber.
But critics argued she was concerned about the opposition gaining seats after more than 600,000 people took part in an unofficial pro-democracy primary.
Last month, Beijing made it an offence to insult or denigrate its national flag, something which has happened during mass anti-Beijing protests seen in Hong Kong through much of last year.
Analysis: Beijing tightens its grip
By Tom Cheshire, Asia correspondent
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