Drama ensued Wednesday in Hong Kong as pro-democracy legislators resigned en masse from the Legislative Council in protest after the Hong Kong government disqualified four fellow party members.
Hours earlier, the Beijing-dominated government had passed a resolution outlining new grounds for dismissing lawmakers, such as advocating Hong Kong independence, colluding with foreign forces or threatening national security — without having to go through the courts. It then promptly banned the four lawmakers, sparking the mass resignation.
The resolution is the latest in Beijing's ongoing effort to dismantle dissent in Hong Kong.
China denies curbing rights and freedoms in the global financial hub. But authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing have moved swiftly to stifle dissent after anti-government protests flared in June last year and plunged the city into crisis.
Wu Chi-wai, chairman of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, is one of the legislators who resigned Wednesday. He believes that Beijing's actions Wednesday mark the end of the "one country, two systems" model for Hong Kong. Wu told The World's host Marco Werman that "all the checks and balances in Hong Kong no longer exist."
Marco Werman: The way you and your colleagues resigned was very dramatic. You and the pro-democracy legislators stood together, held hands and chanted, "Hong Kong, add oil. Together we stand." What does "add oil" mean? Can you explain that?
Wu Chi-wai: Well, "add oil" means we can not give up and we will stand firm to fight for democracy in Hong Kong, even though we are encountering huge obstacles put up by the Beijing government. As we all have seen, there are selective prosecutions and police brutality. And as a result, we hope and urge all the Hong Kong people [to] not give up, even though we are under huge pressure.
You and your colleagues have now resigned. Do you have a platform anymore? Where do these resignations leave the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong now?
As we all know, we are encountering huge pressures coming from the mainland government and also the central government. And right now, we still have a huge platform in the District Council, but we have to expand and try to build up civic society so as to link up all the people that would contribute to the future of a democratic movement. Right at this moment, we have to acknowledge that [it's been a] long time for the democratic movement in Hong Kong.
Does it mean that your final platform for your movement is in the streets of Hong Kong?
Up to this moment, we have to link up every possible fight in every area because we know that even though we want to fight in the streets, we will be in trouble because of the national security laws. And there's a bar to public assembly to protest against the government. And so, right now we have difficulty because of the legal system and because of the law enforcement situation in Hong Kong that will not allow us to arrange a huge, massive social movement in Hong Kong. So, I can only say that we are not in the position that we need to find a new way to fight.
Do you expect the international community to help out or put pressure on Beijing?
The loss of the "one country, two systems" also means the mainland government is not going to honor international treaties. So, we need the international community to really pay attention to the changing situation in Hong Kong, and [that] the whole substance of the "one country" system that is stipulated in the basic law is completely changed by the Beijing government. So, the situation is getting worse and worse. I really hope that the international community, on one hand, can put pressure on the Beijing government, [and] on the other hand, can pay attention to the changing situation in Hong Kong.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. Reuters contributed to this report.