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Next move unclear amid China curbs, says Hong Kong democrat, but ‘we will be back’

The mass resignation of Hong Kong’s opposition lawmakers leaves the pro-democracy movement with no clear option in its fight against Communist Party rulers in Beijing, one of the outgoing legislators said on Nov. 13, but she promised not to give up.

“It’s okay to lose. It’s not okay to quit,” Claudia Mo told Reuters in her office where she was packing up old campaign posters in cardboard boxes. “We will be back.”

Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government expelled four opposition members from the Legislative Council on Nov. 11 for ‘endangering national security’ after China’s parliament gave city authorities new powers to curb dissent.

The remaining opposition members quit in solidarity.

Mo, of the HK First party, said the coronavirus and a sweeping national security law prevented the resumption of last year’s months-long anti-government, anti-China street protests that swept the territory.

“So what next? We don’t know, as of today,” said Mo, a lawmaker during both the Umbrella Movement’s 79-day occupation of key roads in 2014 and last year’s often-violent protests, both demanding universal suffrage for the former British colony.

“You can’t expect two million Hong Kong people taking to the streets again in the near future, no way. And the legislative fight has been put to an end, basically. I really don’t know the right way.”

Protest placards and boxes are seen at legislator Claudia Mo’s office after she resigned as four pan-democratic legislators were disqualified when Beijing passed a new dissent resolution in Hong Kong, Nov. 13. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
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Opposition members have tried to make a stand against what many people see as Beijing’s whittling away of freedoms promised to Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” formula under which it returned to China in 1997.

China denies curbing rights and freedoms in the financial hub but authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing have moved decisively to stifle dissent, especially with the national security legislation which punishes what China broadly defines as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Britain said on Nov. 12 China had broken its main bilateral treaty on Hong Kong by imposing new rules to disqualify elected legislators, cautioning that it would consider sanctions as part of its response.

The fate of Hong Kong’s political opposition has been in doubt since the government, citing coronavirus risks, postponed September’s legislative elections by a year.

Critics saw that as a bid to kill the pro-democracy camp’s momentum as it hoped for the first time to build a majority in the assembly.

But Mo was optimistic the pro-democracy movement will eventually make a comeback.

“The spirit is still there,” she said.

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