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Hong Kong opposition quits en masse to protest new China powers

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong's opposition bloc resigned en masse on Wednesday after China moved to disqualify lawmakers who aren't deemed sufficiently loyal, one of Beijing's strongest actions yet to quash dissent in the territory.

Fifteen members of the pro-democracy camp in the 70-seat Legislative Council quit following the disqualification of four members under Beijing's new rules. The announcement was made at a joint briefing, at which the lawmakers held hands and chanted protest slogans including "Hong Kong add oil - together we stand." "This move makes it clear that dictatorship has descended on to Hong Kong and that Chinese Communist Party can eradicate all opposing voices in the legislature," Fernando Cheung, one of the lawmakers, said earlier by phone. "There's no more separation of powers, no more 'one country, two systems,' and therefore no more Hong Kong as we know it."

China's top legislative body earlier passed a measure requiring Hong Kong lawmakers to demonstrate loyalty to the central government, curbing debate in a democratic institution that has endured more than two decades after the former British colony's return. The decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee is "conducive to the long-term peace and stability, as well as prosperity and development of Hong Kong," Chairman Li Zhanshu said at the close of its two-day meeting.

Offences included supporting Hong Kong independence, refusing to recognize China's sovereignty over the city, asking foreign countries to intervene, failing to uphold the territory's Basic Law or pledge allegiance to Hong Kong and "engaging in any other acts that endanger national security," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

"We need to have a political body that's composed of patriots," Mrs Lam said at a briefing on Wednesday, echoing similar statements from China's top agencies overseeing Hong Kong. She dismissed concerns that Hong Kong would have a "rubber-stamp" legislature if the pro-democracy members resigned, saying she welcomes "diverse opinion."

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