Hong Kong lawmakers “for patriots only” take oath of loyalty

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Lawmakers in Hong Kong’s new “for patriots only” legislature took an oath of allegiance on Monday as he sat for the first time following a new selection process that banned the traditional Democratic opposition from the city.

In a ceremony charged with symbolism reflecting Hong Kong’s new political realities, 90 lawmakers were sworn in in the hemicycle where the city’s traditional emblem had been replaced by that of China.

Loyalty oaths were overseen by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, whose administration no longer needs to face significant opposition from a once noisy legislature now filled with loyalists for the four coming years.

China has reshaped Hong Kong into its own authoritarian image after huge and sometimes violent democracy protests swept through the financial hub in 2019.

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A national security law criminalized many dissent while new laws were passed to purge from public service anyone found to be unpatriotic.

Elections under these new rules were held last month for the legislature.

All candidates have been vetted for political loyalty and only 20 of the 90 seats have been elected directly, while the rest are chosen by pro-Beijing committees.

The result is a legislative body that authorities have hailed as being filled with patriots and devoid of disruptive “anti-Chinese” elements.

Hong Kong lawmakers pose for a group photo following their swearing-in at the Hong Kong Legislative Council on Jan.3. | TUSEN-JIJI

Of the 90 lawmakers who passed the exam and were elected, only one identifies as “non-establishment.”

But Tik Chi-yuen is not from the city’s traditional pro-democracy neighborhood.

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Most of Hong Kong’s best-known Democratic activists are in jail, have fled overseas, or have quit politics since Beijing’s crackdown began.

Monday’s ceremony ended without incident – a stark contrast to 2016 when six pro-democracy lawmakers were sworn in to chant slogans or display banners. All of these lawmakers were then disqualified or removed from office shortly thereafter.

Authoritarian China presented its new political system for Hong Kong as a way to restore stability and said pluralism was still tolerated.

Critics, including many Western countries, say Beijing shredded its promise that Hong Kong would retain its freedoms and autonomy after it was surrendered in 1997 by Britain.

Starry Lee, lawmaker and leader of Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party, the DAB, thanked Beijing for “putting Hong Kong back on track and restoring stability to the legislature.”

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“I am delighted because Hong Kong has entered a new era where we can get rid of political differences and unite our efforts to improve governance,” Lee told reporters.

Last week, 89 of 90 lawmakers released a joint statement supporting the National Security Police raid and arrests on pro-democracy online media Stand News.

Tik was the only one not to sign.

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