HONG KONG - A senior Hong Kong lawmaker was expelled from a prestigious Chinese government body on Wednesday, in a sign that Beijing will not tolerate dissent from loyalists over pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous city.
Mr James Tien had his "qualifications revoked" as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the state-run China News Service said.
The prominent businessman and politician had criticised Hong Kong's embattled leader Leung Chun Ying for failing to put an end to more than a month of pro-democracy protests - an unusual move for a pro-Beijing lawmaker.
Speaking to the press after Beijing's announcement, Mr Tien said although the move to purge him was decided after a vote by the CPPCC's standing committee on Wednesday afternoon, he had been aware of his fate since Monday.
He added that he will tender his resignation as leader of the Liberal Party on Wednesday night.
"In the case of CPPCC, my voice was not acceptable," said Mr Tien. "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 CPPCC voted to pass the "decision on revoking Tian Beijun's membership in the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference", the government body said, using Tien's name in Mandarin and without providing further details.
Hong Kong demonstrators have staged street rallies for more than a month, calling for free leadership elections for the former British colony in 2017. The demonstrations present the most concerted challenge to Beijing's authority since the bloody 1989 Tiananmen protests.
Mr Tien's younger brother Michael, another Hong Kong lawmaker, told AFP ahead of the announcement that his brother was being punished for perceived disloyalty to Mr Leung.
"The decision is definitely based on my brother's comments about CY (Leung Chun-ying)," Michael Tien said.
Mr James Tien is a senior member of the city's pro-business Liberal Party. He said last week that Mr Leung should consider resigning for failing to clear the protesters from the streets.
"Residents are ignoring court injunctions (to disperse) and pan-democrats are being uncooperative. How is he going to govern?" Tien said on Friday, according to the South China Morning Post.