Beijing, May 18 (efe-epa).- At least 14 opposition lawmakers were on Monday ejected from the Hong Kong Legislative Council after a scuffle over the election of the chairperson of a legislative committee.
This was the second incident of its kind in the parliament this month, after seven opposition lawmakers were thrown out on May 8 following another heated debate over who should head the House Committee, a formation which reviews bills before putting them up for a final vote. The election has been blocked for months due a political standoff
According to public broadcaster RTHK, lawmaker Starry Lee, one of the most prominent figures of the biggest pro-Beijing party in the semi-autonomous city, was reelected as the chairperson of the committee.
The expelled lawmakers were protesting against the decision of the Legislative Council President – the house speaker – to replace opposition lawmaker Dennis Kwok, the vice-chair of the House Committee, with pro-Beijing deputy Chan Kin-por as the official in-charge of conducting voting for the chairperson’s post, which had been lying vacant for seven months.
Pro-government lawmakers had accused Kwok of deliberately delaying the election in a political maneuver to block the passage of bills opposed by the pro-democracy political camp, which is in the opposition.
Chan, surrounded by security guards to prevent opposition deputies from approaching him, ejected various lawmakers one-by-one as they chanted slogans. He warned that the deputies could face prison sentences if they did not allow house proceedings to continue.
Voting could not began for over half an hour after the session began due to multiple clashes between opposition lawmakers and security guards.
RTHK reported that at least two opposition deputies – including one who has lodged police complaints over the incident – and a security guard were injured in the scuffles.
Tensions between Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing and pro-democracy political camps have surged again after months of relative calm as protests in the city were interrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic.
One of the major reasons behind the strife is a bill which proposes prison sentences of up to three years for not respecting the Chinese national anthem, a controversial measure which has led to protests and concerns over the freedom of expression in the former British colony.
The pro-democracy protesters had already announced that they would take to the streets again when the coronavirus health crisis ends, and on May 1 various gatherings were held until the local police dispersed them.
Mass protests in Hong Kong began in June 2019 against a controversial extradition bill – already withdrawn by the government – and soon evolved into a movement seeking to expand democratic mechanisms in former British colony and oppose Beijing’s alleged authoritarianism.
These protests have mobilized hundreds of thousands of people since June and caused serious clashes with the police, accused of abusing authority to deter protesters. EFE-EPA