Several pro-democracy legislators were injured and dragged out of the Legislative Council’s House Committee on Friday after a several-hour-long dispute in the chamber over who should chair the meeting.
At 1:15 pm, Starry Lee Wai-king, chairperson of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, a pro-establishment political party, slid into the seat just as New People’s Party leader Regina Ip vacated it after a separate meeting concluded.
Legco security guards surrounded the desk to bar pan-democrats from reaching her. This led to a standoff between lawmakers from the pro-establishment and pro-democracy camps.
When the House Committee meeting began at 2:30 pm, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, a democratic lawmaker, tried climb over a barrier to get to Lee, with security guards tugging at him in an almost farcical scene.
Council Front’s Ray Chan was sent flying at one point, but he was soon up again, running around the room barefoot and charging security guards. Video footage showed Kwok Wai-keung, a lawmaker of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, dragging Chan some distance through the conference room.
Lee cited the Powers and Privileges Ordinance as she warned that anyone blocking or interfering with Legco meetings would be breaking the law. She ordered one pan-dem after another out of the room, although they all ignored her. Several guards dragged Chu, Chan, Ted Hui, Alvin Yeung and Jeremey Tam out of the room.
The Democratic Party’s Andrew Wan, meanwhile, was lying on the floor apparently injured after also being ordered out.
Lee was the House Committee chairperson for 2018/2019 and sought to renew her term last October. As Lee was the sole candidate from the pro-establishment camp to run the chair election and had to abstain from the meeting, deputy chairman Dennis Kwok Wing-hang from the Civic Party took charge and chaired the meeting.
Dozens of pan-democrats applied to run in the election for the committee chairman position. However, the House Committee has failed to elect the new chairman for half-a-year as pan-democrats filibustered in the chamber as a way to undermine the Legco’s operations and support the anti-extradition protests.
On April 13, the Liaison Office and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) issued three statements criticizing Kwok for failing to do his duty in the House Committee. They complained that the approval of the National Anthem Bill had been delayed due to the committee deadlock.
Pro-Beijing newspapers suggested that Kwok should be disqualified as a legislator and charged with misconduct in public office.
The Hong Kong government then sought legal advice. It was told that Lee had the power to chair the meeting to handle the urgent bills before a new chairperson is elected. Pan-democrats also sought legal advice. They were told that Lee could not chair the House Committee as she is a candidate in the committee chairman election.
Last year, Legco legal adviser Connie Fung said that Lee does not have the power to lead the committee meetings. However, she told lawmakers on Friday that the situation has changed. She said former House Committee chair Lee could preside over the proceedings and that earlier advice was based on the circumstances of last year. She said it was clear that the House Committee not electing a new chairperson after six months of meetings defied convention.
Dennis Kwok said Lee leading the meeting was not legally required. He said it was shocking that the Legco legal adviser changed the opinion she had held for the past seven months. The pro-democracy camp said they would follow up on the legal adviser’s position change and decide how to respond.
Before the House Committee meeting ended at around 6 pm, Lee said she would continue to chair the committee’s meeting in the short term, RTHK reported.