Hong Kong's legislature passed a bill on Wednesday that requires district councilors to swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region when assuming office. The bill will come into effect on May 21.
The Public Offices (Candidacy and Taking Up Offices)(Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2021 was passed by a 40-to-1 vote.
The bill requires district councilors to take the oath, which was previously required only to five categories of public servants. Those who decline or neglect to do so, or breach their oath, will be disqualified and banned from running for public office for five years.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said that the bill's passage is an important step in fulfilling the constitutional obligation of the region, as it is a basic requirement and responsibility for public officials to uphold the Basic Law and bear allegiance to the HKSAR
The bill clarifies the actions considered to be violations of the oath, such as refusing to recognize the constitutional status of the HKSAR as a local administrative region of China, soliciting interference by foreign forces in the region's affairs and desecrating the national flag or national emblem.
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Actions that violate the oath-taking requirement, including altering the words or not behaving sincerely and solemnly, are regarded as declining or neglecting to take the oath, according to the bill.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said during the Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday that the bill's passage is an important step in fulfilling the constitutional obligation of the region, as it is a basic requirement and responsibility for public officials to uphold the Basic Law and bear allegiance to the HKSAR.
He said that by setting concrete requirements for taking the oath and the legal consequences of violations, the amended law serves as the foundation for the implementation of "patriots administering Hong Kong", which is conducive to the progress of the "one country, two systems" principle.
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In the past six months, at least 29 district councilors have resigned for various reasons, including refusal to take an oath, personal reasons and disqualification resulting from receiving a prison sentence. Some, including Lester Shum, lost their posts due to participating in the so-called illegal "primary election" that violated the Hong Kong National Security Law. Shum was sentenced to six months in prison for participating in an illegal assembly in June.
On October 12, 2016, 15 lawmakers-elect from the opposition camp distorted the wording of the oath and advocated radical and separatist demands when taking the oath. Six of them were later disqualified as legislators by a Hong Kong court.