The new members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council took office this Monday in a “patriot-only” ceremony that replaced the region’s most important emblems with those of China, despite criticism at local and international levels.
As a symbol of the new Hong Kong politics, 90 MPs were sworn in after the December 19 elections, in which the Beijing candidates won a large majority.
Hong Kong Prime Minister Carrie Lam presided over the ceremony as the new term, which will last four years, will remove the little resistance she has already had in the House of Representatives, RTHK radio reported.
Following the strong wave of protests in 2019, the Chinese authorities took a number of measures to counter dissidents and critical voices in the region.
Many believe the new National Security Act will criminalize Hong Kong opponents and aim to end dissenting opinions that Beijing considers “unpatriotic”.
Only candidates identified by the government as patriotic were allowed to run in the last election, in which only a number of MPs were directly elected while the rest are elected by committees.
The result has formed a legislative council that, according to the central government, is “free of anti-Chinese elements”. Thus, only one of these 90 MPs is viewed as “non-institutional”.
Most of Hong Kong’s leading activists and opponents have been arrested or fled the region since Beijing took a series of measures against them.
This has resulted in the ceremony that Monday being uneventful, which is a great contrast to the 2016 ceremony when six MPs used the event to chant slogans and put up anti-government posters. As a result, all of them lost their seats.
Beijing has called Hong Kong’s new policy a return to “stability” and a resolution to the “chaos” unleashed in the region by foreign forces. For the international community, however, China broke its promise to uphold the freedoms and autonomy contained in the declaration signed with the United Kingdom in 1997 when Hong Kong came under Chinese rule.