Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were dragged out of a legislative council session in a melee that broke out over a bill.
Several pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were dragged out of a legislative council session on Monday in a melee that broke out over a bill that would criminalize any disrespect of the Chinese national anthem, according to reports.
“If Hong Kong was a democracy, we would not need to start scuffles like this,” one of the lawmakers carried out, Eddie Chu said. “Unfortunately we are forced into this situation. I can foresee more fights within the chamber and outside the chamber.”
The uproar began when pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kin-por, who was appointed by the council president last week to oversee the election of a new House committee leader, occupied the chairman’s seat and surrounded himself by more than 30 mask-clad security guards.
The House committee, which decides when controversial bills, including the Chinese national anthem bill, will be voted on, has gone without a chairperson for months.
China has accused pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong of filibustering the bill to stall until council elections in September.
As pro-democracy lawmakers entered the chamber, they tried to reach the chairman’s seat but were met with force from the guards in a skirmish that lasted several minutes. At least one person was knocked to the ground.
One pro-democracy lawmaker took a running start and tried to jump over the guards to reach the chairman’s bench before being pulled out of the air.
One lawmaker held a placard that read: “CCP [Chinese Communist Party] tramples HK legislature.”
Several pro-democracy lawmakers were carried out of the chamber, and, with little opposition left, pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee was elected head of the house committee be a 40 to 1 vote.
This is the second time within 10 days a Legislative Council session had diverged into chaos. In a similar scenario on May 8, Lee, an incumbent, tried to seize control over the chairman’s seat by surrounding herself with security guards.
Placards were thrown and pro-democracy lawmakers tried to rush the bench before being dragged out of the chamber by guards.
Also Monday, 15 high-profile figures apart of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement were met by a crowd of cheering supporters upon leaving a court hearing with the West Kowloon magistrates.
The group was arrested last month for organizing several protests last year that brought the city to a standstill.
They were released on bail until expected trials in June.Five of them received a heavier charge of “incitement to knowingly take part in an unauthorized assembly.”
The group included Martin Lee QC, an 81-year-old veteran legislator and lawyer considered Hong Kong’s “father of democracy”, as well as media tycoon Jimmy Lai, activist Lee Cheuk-yan, former legal sector lawmaker, Margaret Ng, and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung.
“What is on trial here is the human rights of Hong Kong. We are all on trial,” Leung Kwok-hung said outside the courthouse.
“The root of the disturbances in Hong Kong is the Chinese Communist party, destroying and interfering in ‘one country, two systems,’” Lee added.
China has pushed for the Legislative Council to approve a bill criminalizing disrespect of its national anthem. In 2017, China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, extended its own law to apply to Hong Kong, but a bill must be approved by the Legislative Council’s house committee.
Though Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous city, has no national anthem of its own, the song “Glory to Hong Kong” became the unofficial rallying cry for protesters during demonstrations that carried on for most of last year before dying down during the coronavirus pandemic.
Pro-democracy protests have begun to resurge in recent days.
Over the course of seven months last year, demonstrators flooded Hong Kong’s streets to first protest an extradition bill that would have sent Hong Kong prisoners to mainland China for trial, then to push for broader democratic measures, including voting rights and an independent inquiry into police conduct.