HONG KONG (Reuters) - The leader of Hong Kong’s Liberal Party said he would resign on Wednesday, just hours after China’s top parliamentary advisory body expelled him for calling on the city’s embattled chief executive to step down.
James Tien Pei-chun was voted out of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) after he urged Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign amid pro-democracy protests that have paralyzed parts of the city.
“In the case of CPPCC, my voice was not acceptable,” Tien said. “If I want to represent the Hong Kong people, to give them a voice...my resignation (as leader of the Liberal Party) will allow me to better serve Hong Kong people as a lawmaker.”
This is the first time Clause 29, which allows the CPPCC to remove delegates for “serious violation” of the rules, has been invoked, Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK said.
The move comes as Hong Kong protesters entered their fifth week of demonstrations, refusing to back down from demands for a fully-democratic election for the city’s next leader in 2017.
Protesters have also called on Leung to step down, saying he is Beijing’s “puppet” and parading defaced pictures and effigies of him around town.
The protests drew well over 100,000 at their peak. While they have remained largely peaceful there have been flashes of violence and dramatic images of students dressed in raincoats and safety goggles holding up umbrellas as they face off with counter-protesters and police.
Tien said on Friday that Leung should consider resigning. Beijing has said it fully supports Leung.
Democratic lawmakers have also demanded an anti-graft investigation into Leung for a previously undisclosed $6.4 million business payout from an Australian company with Hong Kong government contracts that he received while in office.
A former British colony, Hong Kong is now a special administrative region of China. Beijing has the ultimate say in the city of seven million but Hong Kong has wide-ranging freedoms guaranteed in its mini-constitution which are not present in the mainland, including freedom of speech.
Removing Tien from the CPPCC could further inflame protesters if they interpret it as an additional challenge to the “one country, two systems” form of governance that has ruled Hong Kong since it was returned to Chinese Communist Party rule in 1997.
The CPPCC is a high profile but largely ceremonial advisory body to China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC). Its constitution gives its standing committee the ability to remove delegates if they violate the charter or plenary session resolutions.
This is not the first time Tien has flexed his political muscle against Beijing. His resignation from Hong Kong’s Executive Council after the July 1, 2003, march against a highly controversial proposed national security law forced then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to withdraw it.
Michael Tien Puk-sun, also a Hong Kong lawmaker and NPC delegate, told the New York Times his brother should be prepared to pay the price for expressing his political views.
Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI and Clare Jim and Venus Wu in HONG KONG; Editing by Nick Macfie