180,000 city officials have to swear an oath of loyalty by the end of the month, under penalty of dismissal. Defections put the coronavirus campaign at risk. The suffocation of democratic freedoms continues: limits on the right of expatriation proposed.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Since the beginning of the year, many doctors, nurses, dentists and health researchers in the public service have resigned because they do not want to take an oath of allegiance to the city authorities and to the Basic Law, the local mini-Constitution.
The obligation was imposed by the city executive after the launch of the security law in June. On the basis of a provision approved in January, all 180,000 public officials must swear by the end of the month: in case of refusal not accompanied by "justified reasons", automatic dismissal is triggered.
According to data from the Department of Health, in the last three months 80 members of the city's health personnel have resigned: in all of 2020 there were 58. Joyce Lee, president of the Association of State Doctors, has raised the alarm on the recent defections.
Interviewed by Apple Daily, she stressed that at this rate the public health system will not have enough staff to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, especially with regard to vaccinations. The health authorities ran for cover by suspending non-emergency services; to cover the gaps in staffing, they also incentivized the return of retired professionals.
For the democratic front, the obligation to take an oath is a tool to align the public service with the positions of the Chinese government, which imposed the security law to stifle dissent. Dozens of public employees participated in the anti-government demonstrations of 2019 and early 2020.
According to press reports, many of the officials who refuse to swear are thinking of moving abroad. Several Democrats fled the city after the security law went into effect. To block this trend, pro-Beijing parliamentarians have proposed the adoption of a law that limits the right of expatriation. The proposal gives the Director of Immigration the power to ban a resident from leaving the former British colony. Yesterday the Association of Lawyers criticized the initiative as "intrusive", pointing out that such a decision can only be taken by a court and not by a government official.