Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition lawmakers said on Wednesday they would resign in protest against the dismissal of four of their colleagues from the city assembly after Beijing gave local authorities new powers to further curb dissent.
The Chinese parliament earlier adopted a resolution allowing the city's executive to expel lawmakers deemed to be advocating Hong Kong independence, colluding with foreign forces or threatening national security, without having to go through the courts.
Shortly afterwards, the local government announced the disqualification of four assembly members who had previously been barred from running for re-election as authorities deemed their pledge of allegiance to Hong Kong was not sincere.
The moves will raise further concern in the West about the level of Hong Kong's autonomy, promised under a “one country, two systems” formula when Britain ended its colonial rule and handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997.
Britain's foreign minister Dominic Raab said the expulsion of the four lawmakers constituted an assault on Hong Kong's freedoms as set out in the UK-China Joint Declaration.
"This campaign to harass, stifle and disqualify democratic opposition tarnishes China's international reputation and undermines Hong Kong's long-term stability," Raab said in a statement.
At a news conference in Hong Kong which started with all opposition lawmakers holding hands, Democratic Party chairman Wuu Chi-Wai said: "We can no longer tell the world that we still have 'one country, two systems, this declares its official death."