Hong Kong on Monday saw ruckus over the consideration of legislation that pro-democracy politicians fear would tighten China’s control over the semiautonomous territory. It was the second such incident in this month– on May 8, the lawmakers had argued over the leadership of the committee.
The pro-democracy camp made allegations that the establishment lawmakers were trying to seize control of the committee illegitimately, which for months has been led by Dennis Kwok, a pro-democracy lawmaker. ON other hand, Chinese officials and pro-Beijing lawmakers slammed Mr. Kwok of blocking new legislation, including a bill that would criminalize disrespecting the Chinese national anthem.
In 1997, Hong Kong officially adopted the Chinese national anthem after when the former British colony returned to Chinese control. However, many refused to accept it as their own, often booing loudly when it is played at soccer games and other public events. The proposed legislation initiate criminal action against such practices, with insulting the anthem leading to steep fines of imprisonment of up to three years.
The latest scuffle happened after the pro-Beijing lawmaker, Chan Kin-por, attempted to preside over the committee’s election for a new leader to replace Mr. Kwok. So, the pro-democracy lawmakers approached with signs and a black cloth to drape over the speaker’s dais in protest. However, they were blocked by more than a dozen security guards who flanked Mr. Chan.
It led to at least four pro-democracy lawmakers being carried or dragged off the floor of the Legislative Council. Lam Cheuk Ting, a pro-democracy lawmaker, ripped out pages from the legislature’s rule book and scattered them into the fray. Other lawmakers alleged that Mr. Chan and the pro-Beijing camp had improperly seized power over the committee.
After the leader from pro-democracy camp were removed, Starry Lee, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, was ultimately elected the committee’s new chairwoman. Mr. Kwok, who was replaced as acting chair, said that the election violated the practices of Hong Kong’s legislature.
“Whenever the pro-establishment camp don’t like something, they will do whatever it takes, including breaking the system that we have and the rules that we have.. the price of freedom is constant vigilance,” he said.