A district councilor in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) was immediately disqualified after failing to attend an oath-taking ceremony on Friday, the first of four planned ceremonies after the city strengthened oath-taking requirements in May.
A total of 25 district councilors were supposed to attend the oath-taking ceremony, but one, Peter Choi Chi-keung from the eastern district, did not show up. Choi was immediately disqualified, while the other 24 were swore in, according to media reports, citing HKSAR Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai.
Friday’s ceremony was the first of four planned to swear in 211 district councilors. The ceremonies come after a bill on oath-taking requirements for district councilors came into force on May 21. The widely-applauded bill requires all district councilors to pledge loyalty to the Basic Law and the HKSAR.
Separately, the HKSAR government said in a statement on Friday that three district councilor seats where vacated after three district councilors resigned.
After the ceremony on Friday, some district councilors who completed the oath-taking ceremony told reporters that the ceremony was like the one for the Legislative Council (LegCo) members and “even more solemn.”
District councilor Kwok Wai-keung said that the ceremony marked “one of the milestones of enforcing ‘patriots ruling Hong Kong.’”
Another district councilor Paul Tse Wai-chun said the attendees solemnly took the oath and behaved "100 percent normally." He said that he did not see any form of behaviors at the ceremony that would trigger disqualification, but whether certain district councilors’ past behaviors were in line with the requirements have to be judged by the authorities.
Completing the swearing-in ceremony does not necessarily mean that the district councilors will be allowed to retain their seats. The validity of their oath is not determined on the spot, but will be announced later, according to Tsui.
HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam said earlier this week that if there would be any oath that HKSAR government doubted, the district councilors involved would have the opportunity to make representations and the oath-commissioner would judge, with legal advice possibly involved.
Requiring oaths from the city’s civil servants is in line with the principle of only "patriots governing Hong Kong," Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong affairs expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times in an earlier interview. "Through this process, we can screen people in order to further enhance the quality of Hong Kong civil servant services, and only let those who are truly qualified for the positions serve.”