Photo by Tee Jz

Hong Kong’s 180,000 civil servants were told on Jan. 15 they had four weeks to sign a document pledging their loyalty to the Chinese government and the city’s mini constitution.

Civil servants taking the oath will promise to uphold Hong Kong’s Basic Law and “bear allegiance” to the city and its government.

Over 4,000 officials already signed the pledge after the Chinese government implemented a sweeping national security law in June, which punishes anything China considers to be subversion, secessionism, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Those who refuse to sign the pledge could lose their job. 

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government announced, “Negligence or refusal to take the oath or to duly sign and return the declaration by a civil servant casts serious doubts on the person’s willingness to take up these basic duties and on the person’s suitability to remain in the civil service.”

“Violation of the oath itself is not a criminal offence,” said Hong Kong’s Secretary for the Civil Service, Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, “but whether the violation is illegal is the part to be considered.”

This pledge was first discussed in Dec. 2020 during an online conference when Nip said that authorities would make this request as soon as next month. Civil servants must arrange the oath taking ceremony through departments and the policy bureau, while permanent secretaries and department heads will take the oath separately.

Authorities previously disqualified opposition candidates and pro-democracy lawmakers for being “dishonest” with their oaths of allegiance. There is currently no exhaustive list describing the improper conduct the Chinese government considers to be “dishonest.”

However, in a circular to civil servants, it said that supporting “Hong Kong Independence,” refusing to recognize Chinese authority over the city or conducting activities that threaten national security were not allowed.

Foreign ministers from Australia, Canada and the U.S. condemned China after a Hong Kong lawyer and ten others were arrested on suspicion of helping twelve pro-democracy activists flee the city. 

“We call on the Hong Kong and Chinese central authorities to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong without fear of arrest and detention,” the ministers wrote.

There is currently no new statement from any foreign minister in response to this new pledge.

Written ByJasmine Perry

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