The government on Tuesday announced its intention to require district councillors to take a pledge of allegiance, with any who are disqualified for breaching the oath to be banned from running for office for five years.
Planned amendments to the law to allow for the disqualifications and bans will also cover legislators.
The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Erick Tsang, made the announcement, saying the Executive Council had endorsed a draft bill on Tuesday morning.
Tsang said other key aspects of the draft legal amendments include a “clear definition” of what it means to "uphold the Basic Law" and to "pledge allegiance to the SAR".
He said examples of conduct considered a breach of the oath will also be written into the statute book – including advocating or supporting Hong Kong independence, seeking the intervention of external forces’ in the SAR's affairs, performing or intending to perform acts that would undermine the political system in Hong Kong, and insulting the national anthem or other symbols of China’s sovereignty.
“In the legal amendment exercise, we arranged for a ‘positive list' and a 'negative list' to define what it is to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to SAR, and what conduct would constitute 'not upholding' and 'not pledging allegiance'," Tsang said, adding that the lists are not exhaustive.
The "positive list" includes upholding national security and the fact that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China, while the "negative list" includes breaching the national security law, and committing acts that "have a tendency to undermine the overall interests of the HKSAR".
Tsang also said a councillor's past conduct may be taken into consideration when his or her pledge is assessed.
“We don’t deny that there may be a possibility that when we have to decide on someone’s behaviour, whether he’s upholding the Basic Law or bearing allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR, we may have to take into account some of his past behaviours. It will depend on the actual situation by then,” he said.
Under Article 104 of the Basic Law, the chief executive, principal officials, executive council members, lawmakers and judges must take an oath of office, and the proposed legal amendment would extend this requirement to district councillors, the minister said.
Tsang said the justice secretary would ask the courts to make an order to disqualify any lawmakers or district councillors deemed to have breached the oath, and those accused would be suspended pending the courts' decision.
Anyone disqualified would be banned from standing in elections for the chief executive position, Legco or district councils for five years.
To streamline the proceedings, anyone who wanted to appeal against a disqualification could go directly to the Court of Final Appeal, Tsang added.
The draft legal amendments are expected to be tabled to Legco on March 17.