Pledge allegiance to China if you want to keep your job: Hong Kong civil servants swear oaths of loyalty under new rules brought in by Beijing to stop democracy protests
- Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam watched public officials take the pledge
- Civil servants must vow loyalty to the financial hub’s Beijing-backed government
- It comes after some civil servants took part in last year’s pro-democracy protests
Hong Kong civil servants swore a new pledge of allegiance to the city’s Beijing-backed government today as China tries to enforce greater loyalty in the financial hub after last year’s huge democracy protests.
The city’s chief executive Carrie Lam oversaw a closed-door ceremony in which a group of senior officials took the pledge on Wednesday.
All of the finance hub’s 180,000 civil servants will be expected to make the pledge in the coming weeks, promising to ‘bear allegiance’ to the city and its government and uphold Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
Civil servants were one of the groups that took to the streets in large numbers last year calling for greater democracy and police accountability.
Hong Kong civil servants line up at an oath-swearing ceremony at a government building in the city today as the Beijing-backed government tries to enforce loyalty in the financial hub
Tens of thousands of civil servants joined one rally during last year’s protests that was expressly organised by public officials.
Some of the civil servants posted anonymised ID cards online as a way to signal their support for the movement – a move that infuriated Beijing.
The wave of protests last year was set off by an extradition bill which would have allowed people to be tried in mainland China’s Communist-controlled courts.
China’s authoritarian leaders dismissed the protests and have overseen a widespread crackdown on dissent in the city this year.
It imposed a sweeping security law on the territory in June and has called for patriotism and loyalty to be installed across Hong Kong society.
The pledges are part of that drive, with a government spokesman saying they would ‘strengthen the public’s confidence in political-appointed officials’.
Hong Kong’s civil service minister has warned those who refused to take an oath of loyalty or sign similar declarations could lose their jobs.
Civil servants attend a rally during the protests in Hong Kong last year which were set off by an extradition bill which would have allowed people to be tried in mainland China
Authorities say that civil servants have to abide by political neutrality rules and should not have joined the protests.
Local media reported other ranks of civil servants will be asked to sign declarations of loyalty and the whole process is expected to be completed next month.
All new hires within the civil service already have to sign a mandatory loyalty pledge.
The security law led to severe criticism from Britain, the US and countries who said China was backsliding on its pledge to guarantee Hong Kong’s freedoms.
The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a formula called ‘one country, two systems’ which means it has freedoms unknown on the mainland.
But a group of Western foreign ministers said in August that the law was ‘eroding the Hong Kong people’s fundamental rights and liberties’.
The UK also angered Beijing by offering a route to citizenship to around three million people in Hong Kong who have a special British status acquired before 1997.