Hong Kong's justice chief said on Monday that pledging allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Basic Law is a long-existing requirement and constitutional duty for each of the city's 180,000 public sector employees.
Hong Kong's Civil Service Bureau recently announced that all civil servants must take an oath or make a declaration that they will uphold the Basic Law of the HKSAR, and they must also bear allegiance to Hong Kong and be responsible to the HKSAR government.
In an interview with China Daily, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said that with regard to the city's public sector employees there are already some requirements under the Basic Law.
She said that Article 99 of the Basic Law, which has been in effect since July 1, 1997, stipulates that "public servants must be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region".
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress's interpretation of Article 104 of the Basic Law in 2016 refers to swearing allegiance when assuming public office, she added.
The interpretation stipulates that bearing allegiance to the HKSAR "is also a legal requirement and precondition for running for election, as well as for public service", Cheng said.
Therefore, the arrangement is just "an outward manifestation" of fulfilling what the Basic Law requires them to do, Cheng said.
The Department of Justice is working with the Civil Service Bureau on measures to deal with cases of employees who refuse to swear allegiance.
Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen told the media on Nov 26 that 2,980 recruits who joined the civil service since July 1 had already signed the declaration and preparations for extending the requirement to those who joined before that date had entered their final stages.
Nip also said that refusing to swear allegiance would affect civil servants' promotion prospects.
The arrangement was introduced after some civil servants were found to have taken part in illegal activities during the social unrest which started in June 2019.
By the end of April, 42 civil servants had been suspended over their participation in unauthorized assemblies held during the unrest, which began during protests against the now-withdrawn extradition bill and turned into months of street violence.