Hong Kong ousts independent lawmaker

Cheng Chung-tai, one of just two opposition figures left, was deemed disloyal on the basis of his previous statements and behaviour

A powerful new Hong Kong committee, tasked with vetting politicians and officials for their loyalty, disqualified an opposition lawmaker for the first time on Thursday, as authorities purge its institutions of anyone deemed disloyal to Beijing.

Cheng Chung-tai, one of just two opposition figures left in the city’s legislature, was deemed disloyal on the basis of his previous statements and behaviour, chief secretary John Lee, who heads the vetting committee, told reporters.

“To those who pretend to… bear allegiance to the government, I will not be deceived by their flowery speeches and their attempts to sugarcoat,” Mr. Lee said, adding Mr. Cheng had “lost his seat with immediate effect.”

Mr. Lee did not detail what specifically Mr. Cheng had said or done that had led to his disqualification.

‘Patriots’ politics

China is rapidly recasting Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image in the wake of huge democracy protests two years ago.

It has blanketed the business hub in a national security law that has criminalised much dissent and rolled out a campaign to ensure only so-called “patriots” can play a role in its politics.

That campaign has included a sweeping overhaul of the city’s already limited elections, drastically reducing the number of directly elected seats.

Only one non-government loyalist is now left in Hong Kong’s partially elected legislature—an independent who represents the city’s medical sector.

In 2017 he was found guilty of “desecrating” the Chinese and Hong Kong flags by turning them upside down during a debate.

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