The US secretary of state has caused confusion by deleting a post critical of Hong Kongs unseating of opposition council members and issuing a milder remark instead. A department spokesperson stuck to the original wording.
This week, seven opposition district councillors in Hong Kong were unseated after a deadline expired for them to submit information proving that they were sincere when they swore oaths as public servants. Washington criticized Beijing over the development, but key officials in the US Department of State apparently can’t find common ground on what the message to the Chinese government should be.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Twitter account initially posted a remark, calling on Beijing to “let the voices of all Hong Kongers be heard.” He said the disqualifications weaken the autonomous city’s long-term stability, adding: “We stand with the people of Hong Kong & continue to support their human rights & fundamental freedoms.” The tweet was later deleted and a milder statement along the same lines was posted about a day later.
Blinken’s original message was shared by Department of State spokesman Ned Price. It was reposted by Price’s account after Blinken’s tweet was taken down.
The seven district council members were disqualified after the oaths they swore on Friday last week were deemed invalid. A total of 24 politicians took part in the ceremony, roughly half of them from the opposition camp. One politician scheduled to appear skipped the event and was unseated because of it.
An oath of allegiance was previously necessary only for senior officials in Hong Kong. Earlier this year, the requirement was expanded to a larger number of offices, including district councillors, in line with last year’s controversial Chinese national security law. If a person is suspected of making an insincere pledge, they can be removed from office.