The proposed bill that would require all Hong Kong district councilors to swear allegiance to the special administrative region has won the support of city political leaders and legal experts.
They said on Wednesday that the government-proposed bill can be seen as an important step in implementing the "patriots governing Hong Kong" principle in the electoral system.
The bill, unveiled on Tuesday, would amend the city elections law. It states that anyone who fails to take a valid oath or breaks the oath will face disqualification and a five-year ban on running for public office.
Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Hong Kong's chief secretary for administration, said it is justified to require all people who govern the city to love the country, firmly safeguard the nation's sovereignty, national security and interests, and maintain the city's stability and prosperity.
Cheung said it's important and urgent to improve the city's electoral system to ensure that only patriots can run for elections at all levels.
Under current practice, only the chief executive, principal officials, executive councilors, lawmakers, judges of the courts at all levels, other members of the judiciary and civil servants are required to pledge allegiance to the SAR and the Basic Law.
The amendment will plug the legal loophole, ensuring only those who love the nation and Hong Kong remain in the city's political offices, said barrister Kacee Ting Wong, who is also a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
Since the opposition camp secured almost 90 percent of seats in the District Council elections in 2019, relations between district councils and the government have been deteriorating. Some meetings between councilors and officials had to be canceled because of slogan-chanting and swearing.
Local media also reported that some district councilors' offices in July 2020 were used as polling places for the opposition camp's so-called primary election, despite the government's warning the election might violate the city's Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance.
Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, a solicitor and lawmaker, said it would be intolerable to use such bodies including district councils to publicly challenge the government's authority and governance in any country or region.
The bill could help to eliminate the chaos and improve systems to implement the "patriots governing Hong Kong" principle in a timely and effective way, Cheung said.
Lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen criticized some district councilors from the opposition who she said only pressed their own political agenda while ignoring district affairs, adding that she hopes the bill will bring order out of chaos.
The HKSAR government is expected to submit the draft amendment to the Legislative Council on March 17.