The Civic Party, one of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy groups, has voted to disband following a crackdown on dissent by China. The party was founded in 2006 and was once the second-largest opposition party in the city’s Legislative Council. However, several of its key members were arrested or fled into exile in recent years. The party announced plans to dissolve in December after it failed to form a new executive committee. Following the introduction of the controversial national security law, four of its lawmakers were ousted from the Legislative Council in 2020, accused of being “unpatriotic”.
According to a report from a recent article by Kathryn Armstrong on BBC News, one of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy groups, the Civic Party, has voted to disband following a crackdown on dissent by China. The party, which was founded in 2006 and was once the second-largest opposition party in the city’s Legislative Council, has seen several of its key members arrested or flee into exile in recent years.
The Civic Party was known for representing professionals including lawyers and accountants and was seen as a more moderate alternative to the larger Democratic Party, which is still running. However, following the introduction of the controversial national security law, four of its lawmakers were ousted from the Legislative Council in 2020, accused of being “unpatriotic”. This triggered mass resignations from other opposition politicians in protest.
Following an overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system that meant only “patriots” could hold public office, the party lost dozens of spots on district councils. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, and under its “one country, two systems” principle, residents are supposed to enjoy certain freedoms unavailable on the mainland – and Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, guarantees the right to public assembly. But these rights have, critics say, been eroded since 2020, when Beijing imposed a national security law in response to widespread pro-democracy protests.
The party announced plans to dissolve in December after it failed to form a new executive committee. At the time, chairman Alan Leong told the Hong Kong Free Press he was not surprised nobody wanted to lead the party as there had been no suggestions about how to keep it going at an internal member in September. On Saturday, Mr Leong said all members had voted to disband the party, with one person abstaining. “After going through the last procedure, the Civic Party will disappear from the Earth,” he said.
In a statement, Mr Leong thanked “all like-minded people” who had joined the party on its “long walk to democracy” and said that while it had “not accomplished what we set out to do, there is a time for everything”. One of its founders, Albert Lai, said the party’s end was “a symbol of the end of Hong Kong’s nativistic democracy movement”. Speaking to the AFP news agency, he said “the failure does not mean the movement was meaningless.”
The disbandment of the Civic Party is another blow to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, which has been under increasing pressure since the introduction of the national security law. The law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Critics say it is being used to silence dissent and stifle opposition voices in the city.
The situation in Hong Kong is being closely watched by the international community, with many countries expressing concern about the erosion of freedoms and the rule of law in the city. The United States and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over the crackdown on Hong Kong, and have also offered asylum to Hong Kongers fleeing persecution.
At the end of the day, the disbandment of the Civic Party is a significant development in the ongoing struggle for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong. The party’s demise is a symbol of the challenges facing opposition groups in the city, and the increasing pressure being exerted by Beijing to silence dissent. As the international community continues to monitor the situation in Hong Kong, it is clear that the fight for democracy and freedom in the city is far from over.