Hong Kong authorities declared on Monday that they plan to begin terminating the contracts of civil servants who fail to take an oath of allegiance to the Hong Kong government.
Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip told lawmakers that 129 of 170,000 civil servants had not signed a written pledge of allegiance, with some writing on the form that the clause violated their right to free expression.
The declaration states that the officials will “bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China… and be accountable to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
According to Nip’s civil service bureau, 25 civil servants have resigned, and the rest have been suspended or put on unpaid leave.
“Since it is the fundamental duty of a permanent resident or a civil servant of the Hong Kong SAR to bear allegiance to Hong Kong and the administration,” he said.
“We will expedite the procedures. I’m sure this will be over in a couple of months, “Nip told the Legislative Council (LegCo).
The obligation to pledge allegiance to the government comes amid a citywide crackdown on peaceful dissent and political criticism after the CCP imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong on July 1, 2020.
According to the workers union, the Hong Kong government broadcaster RTHK terminated a journalist’s permanent civil service contract and benefits in January.
In a move widely criticised as political interference in the media, management gave TV current affairs anchor Nabela Qoser the option of resigning or accepting a short-term contract.
Qoser’s contract was terminated after she posed a series of tough questions to CEO Carrie Lam about an armed thugs assault on train passengers in Yuen Long on July 31, causing Lam and other top officials to walk out of a news conference.
Lawyers for imprisoned opposition politician Tam Tak-chi asked on Monday for the proceedings against him to be suspended, questioning the legal justification for his arrest on suspicion of “sedition” for shouting protest slogans.
Following a decision earlier this month, Tam, the vice chairman of the opposition party People Power, could be tried for sedition in District Court with no jury.
His defence counsel, Philip Dykes, argued that the colonial-era sedition rule is incompatible with the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which guarantees freedom of speech.
“The concepts of seditious intent… are so general or ambiguous that [the law] fails to inform what’s safe to say or write,” Dykes told the District Court. Judge Stanley Chan adjourned the hearing and postponed his decision until April 26.
Tam appeared at ease in court, making a triumphant “V” motion to the audience.
Chan chastised Tam’s supporters in the public gallery for making a splayed, five-finger gesture in reference to the five demands of the 2019 protest movement, which included truly democratic elections.
“This defendant may be very famous in the eyes of the public, but the court would like to remind the public that they are in a courtroom,” Chan said. “In criminal cases, the court should be regarded as a position that expresses the independence of the judiciary. It is not a venue for people to play or dance. ”
Tam was arrested in September 2020 for using the protest slogans “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now!” and “Five demands, not one less!” when giving speeches on the streets of Kowloon between March and July.
Tam is also accused of yelling, “Dirty police, I hope your family members all die!” and of filing complaints about police inaction during a mob assault on train passengers in Yuen Long on July 21, 2019, as well as riot police assaults on passengers in Prince Edward MTR station on August 31, 2019.
Meanwhile, Liu Changle, the chairman of Hong Kong-based Chinese-language broadcaster Phoenix Media Investment, announced that he will sell almost all of his stake in the firm to the CCP-backed Bauhinia Culture Holdings and Common Sense, which is owned by Pansy Ho’s Shun Tak empire.
“The board does not expect the proposed [share transfers] to have any negative effect on the company’s business operations,” Phoenix said in a document filed with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Sunday.
A journalist based in the northern province of Hebei who gave only his surname, Song, said the transfer of Liu’s stake demonstrated Beijing’s increasing influence over a broadcaster established by a former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) radio reporter.
“Bauhinia Culture is a state-owned possession,” Song explained. “Regaining control of Phoenix TV is only for show.”
“I believe we will see a more trend toward central [government] regulation over all of Hong Kong’s media organisations,” he predicted.
“This may mean that they centralise all privately-owned media, including publishing houses, and put them under the same management as they would have in mainland China, if not more strictly regulated.”