All of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers have resigned after four of their colleagues were disqualified.
China on Wednesday passed a resolution allowing the city’s government to disqualify politicians deemed a threat to national security for their stand on the region’s independence.
Shortly afterwards Hong Kong Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai told reporters that they would all leave the city’s legislature.
“We… will stand with our colleagues who are disqualified,” he said.
This means that for the first time since Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 its legislative body now has virtually no dissenting voices.
The territory’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, is heavily pro-Beijing and is supported by the central government there.
The move is being seen as the latest attempt by China to restrict freedoms in the semi-autonomous region, months after its far-reaching national security law which criminalised “secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces”.
The controversial law – which has already led to several arrests of activists and has largely silenced protesters – was introduced after years of pro-democracy and anti-Beijing protests.
Hong Kong – formerly a British colony – was returned to China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” principle, which allowed it to retain more rights and freedoms than the mainland until 2047.
These rights have however been eroded under the expansionist policies of China president Xi Jinping.