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Loyalty oaths: Hong Kong civil servants begin to pledge allegiance to the city

Loyalty oaths: Hong Kong civil servants begin to pledge allegiance to the city
The first group of high-ranking officials took oaths vowing to uphold Hong Kong’s laws on Wednesday, thus fulfilling a new requirement for an expression of loyalty following the adoption of Beijing’s new security law.

Standing in front of the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, at government headquarters, the 12 undersecretaries and 14 political assistants together recited the oath to uphold the law and bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

The ceremony was led by Undersecretary for the Environment Tse Chin-wan, the most senior official in the group. A Hong Kong government spokesman said the officials “made a solemn promise on their responsibilities,” adding that the move will boost “the confidence of the public in the politically-appointed officials.”

Undersecretaries and political assistants are seen more as political appointees, but all 180,000 civil servants in Hong Kong are expected to take the oath by the end of next month. After Beijing introduced the national security law in June, public office holders in Hong Kong are required to make such pledges.

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In her policy speech on November 26, Lam described Hong Kong as a “gaping hole” in China’s national security and said the oath is legally binding, while relevant local laws will deal with those “who have engaged in conduct that breaches the oath after swearing-in.”

However, opponents see the new policy as a way to clamp down on dissent among civil servants. Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party has said that China only wants lawmakers who are willing to operate within its confines, calling it “a political signal fired by Beijing.”

Civil servants took part in anti-government protests last year, calling for greater democracy. They arranged one rally, which was joined by tens of thousands, and some of the organizers posted anonymous ID cards online to show support for the protest movement.

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