The decision on Monday by the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, came after a tense stand-off and occasional clashes in Hong Kong on Sunday night between police and hundreds of protesters. […]Mr Leung and Ms Yau were elected in September after record voter turnout in Hong Kong, buoyed by opposition to Beijing’s increasing interference in the semi-autonomous territory. But the NPC ruled on Monday that “those who support Hong Kong independence do not qualify to run for and serve as members of the legislature” and should “be held legally responsible” for their actions.It added that those who fail to take the oath of office “solemnly” should not be allowed to take it again and those who take it but later violate it should also face legal consequences.
As we noted last week, Beijing’s decision to intervene in an active Hong Kong court case set a major precedent. The ruling itself will have even greater repercussions. Beijing has now removed elected Hong Kong officials by decree. And rather than ruling narrowly against the two people in question, China has taken a broader position, barring independence activists from seeking office and pressuring the Hong Kong government to comply.The ruling comes at a time when President Xi is consolidating his power on the mainland and clamping down on internal reform. The news will likely stir up passions in Hong Kong over the notion that Beijing is expanding its control and directly interfering with the rule of law in a supposedly autonomous region.Hong Kong’s young localists have apparently overplayed their hand in calculating that they could openly defy China and still enjoy their new political privileges. The backlash in Hong Kong will be something to watch for: perhaps Beijing has overplayed its hand, too?