HK opposition lawmakers thrown out of meeting after melee erupts as pro-establishment bloc installs chairwoman on key Legislative Council committee

19-May-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s pro-establishment lawmakers seized control of an influential legislative committee in a chaotic meeting on Monday, installing one of their own as its new chairwoman.

Starry Lee Wai-king was re-elected to lead the powerful House Committee, after 15 opposition legislators were booted out for clashing with security guards protecting the man appointed to run proceedings.

The latest instalment of a saga that has dragged on for months came three days after Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen picked Chan Kin-por to ensure the election finally took place.

Over the past three weeks, the committee, which scrutinises bills introduced into Legco and decides when they are put to a final vote, has become the centrepiece of a fight between the opposition camp and Beijing’s offices that oversee city affairs.

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok had presided over the previous 17 meetings as deputy chair, as the incumbent chairwoman Lee had to stand aside as she was seeking re-election, and had been accused of deliberately delaying the election as a political manoeuvre to block the passage of laws the opposition disagreed with, notably the national anthem bill.

A total of 14 bills and 89 pieces of subsidiary legislation were held up by Kwok’s filibustering.

While the opposition called Lee’s election illegitimate, pro-establishment lawmakers decried their rivals for the “violent protests” that took place in the chamber.

On Monday, dozens of Legco security guards escorted Chan to the podium before the meeting started at 11am, and prevented opposition lawmakers from approaching him.

But a group that included Kwok surrounded the podium with a massive black cloth which they said symbolised the “black box operation” coordinated by the pro-establishment camp, Legco secretariat and Beijing with Claudia Mo Man-ching raising a placard that read “CCP [Chinese Communist Party] tramples HK legislature”.

Hong Kong people will never forget what happened today and they will not allow these people to return to Legco

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan, who used a loudspeaker to question Chan’s legitimacy in presiding over the meeting, was the first to be thrown out.

She was followed by democrat Ted Hui Chi-fung, who tried to break through the cordon of guards. While resisting attempts to remove him from the chamber, Hui, who was lifted up by four guards, was dragged onto the ground. Chan said: “Do not struggle. You are hurting the security guards.”

Sitting in the corridor outside the meeting room, Hui accused someone of kicking him in the chest.

At 11.10am, Chan suspended the meeting, as he said some lawmakers had been injured amid the clashes. By that point, five lawmakers had been expelled.

Compared with the scuffle in the same committee earlier in the month, Chan wasted no time in taking charge, giving lawmakers three warnings within a very short period of time.

“Chan Kin-por, you are playing a dirty game!” the opposition lawmakers chanted throughout the 30-minute suspension.

More were ousted when the meeting resumed, and by the end, 15 of 20 opposition lawmakers present had been kicked out. Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting was seen standing on the bench as he tore up a copy of the rules of procedure in protest.

Chan warned that lawmakers who did not return to their seats would not get their ballot papers. A total of 40 ballots were given out to pro-establishment lawmakers, who unanimously returned Lee as chairwoman.

None of the five remaining opposition politicians voted, as they were all surrounding Chan to protest his decision.

Speaking after the meeting, Tanya Chan, convenor of the pro-democracy bloc, said they would not endorse the election results.

“Hong Kong people will never forget what happened today and they will not allow these people to return to Legco,” Kwok said, referring to the upcoming elections in September.

He admitted it would not be easy for the camp to threaten legal action, citing previous cases in which the court opted not to intervene in legislative matters.

Martin Liao Cheung-kong, of the pro-establishment bloc, said legal advice had suggested the meeting was legitimate.

“[The pan-democrats] can simply launch a judicial review against the president’s decision,” he said. “It would not be a bad thing if the court took the case and ruled who’s right.”

On Friday, Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen invoked his power under Article 92 of the Rules of Procedure and designated Chan, who was the Finance Committee chair, to run the election a move which pan-democrats called “illogical, absolutely unacceptable and groundless”.

The controversy surrounding the house committee erupted last month when the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, and the Office of Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong accused opposition lawmakers of paralysing the legislature with filibustering tactics in strongly worded statements.

Pro-establishment lawmakers, who had been largely passive in resolving the deadlock since October, stepped up their attempts to counter Kwok.

Leung sought external legal advice from two senior counsel, who suggested Lee, as the incumbent chairwoman, had the power to break the deadlock.

On May 8, Lee cleared 14 bills and set up committees to scrutinise some of them in a tumultuous session during which security guards and opposition lawmakers also clashed.

Meanwhile, serial litigant Kwok Cheuk-kin applied for an urgent judicial review hearing at the High Court on Monday morning, in a bid to secure an injunction to prevent Chan from hosting what he described as an unconstitutional meeting.

The former civil servant said there was no reason Dennis Kwok should be barred from presiding over the election when he had been lawfully appointed.

He also argued that Andrew Leung had abused the Rules of Procedure in appointing Chan when he was not even a member of the House Committee, contrary to Article 75 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, which stated that such rules shall be made by the council and not the president.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Comments are closed.