Some pro-Beijing lawmakers in Hong Kong have joined political rivals in a rare show of unity to warn against possible abuse of a proposed bill that seeks to ensure the allegiance of public office holders.
According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), the concerns were raised as legislators met on Thursday to examine the draft legislation, formally called the Public Offices (Candidacy and Taking Up Offices) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2021, which mainly seeks to extend current requirements of a loyalty pledge from government officials and lawmakers to include members of the city's 18 district councils.
As per the bill, those who do not meet the mark would deemed as breaching their oath and thus disqualified and banned from taking part in elections for five years upon conviction.
At the committee meeting, pro-Beijing legislator Tony Tse Wai-chuen pointed out controversies and differing views over reclamation. "For councillors who are anti-reclamation [because of the environmental impact], they may accuse rivals who support the measure of undermining the overall interests of Hong Kong," he said.
Another pro-establishment legislator, Paul Tse Wai-chun, also questioned if being accused of committing an offence under the national security law was considered failure to pledge loyalty.
"There is the question of committing and conviction. When a person is not yet convicted, how can we judge if that person has committed an offence, and decide whether to disqualify him?" he said.
Paul also asked for the removal of 'positive' and 'negative' lists of the Bill, saying that it will raise more ambiguity, reported SCMP.
Furthermore, independent legislator Dr Pierre Chan Pui-yin questioned if lawmakers could be deemed to have breached their loyalty pledge if they voted against important government bills or budget, or moved a no-confidence vote against the chief executive.
The bill is expected to pave the way for the mass disqualification of opposition district councillors, who scored a landslide victory at the height of the anti-government protests in 2019.
On Thursday, China's National Peoples' Congress Standing Committee approved sweeping changes to the Hong Kong's electoral system which would empower the Election Committee - originally tasked with picking the chief executive - the right to nominate all candidates aspiring to be lawmakers and elect 40 representatives of its own to the city's Legislative Council.
The committee will control all key elections, while a new vetting committee would also be established to screen out candidates deemed "unpatriotic" with help from the national security police.
Despite fierce international condemnation, China approved the contentious resolution, a move that critics say could further smother opposition voices in Hong Kong. Several countries have condemned Beijing's move to overhaul Hong Kong's electoral system.
( With inputs from ANI )
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