Hong Kong lawmakers clash as pro-Beijing camp elects chair of bill-checking panel
HONG KONG – Clashes broke out in Hong Kong’s legislature Monday for a second time this month as a pro-Beijing lawmaker was elected chair of a key committee that scrutinizes bills, ending a prolonged struggle for control with the pro-democracy camp.
The legislature’s House Committee, which vets bills and decides when to present them for a final vote, had been without a chairperson for more than six months. The central government in Beijing criticized deputy chairperson and pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok for deliberately delaying matters and causing a backlog of bills that affect public interest.
Kwok was replaced Friday by Chan Kin-por, who was appointed by the legislature’s president to preside over Monday’s election. After scuffles and shouting matches, leading to Chan ejecting most of the pro-democracy lawmakers, the election took place with pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee winning easily.
Her election will likely speed up the passing of a controversial bill that would criminalize abuse of the Chinese national anthem. Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam said last week that passing the bill was a priority for the government, and the bill will be presented to the committee on May 27.
At Monday’s meeting, pro-democracy lawmakers held up placards that read “Abuse of Power” and “CCP tramples HK legislature,” referring to the China‘s ruling Communist Party. Within minutes, at least five lawmakers were ejected for disorderly behavior, with at least one lying injured on the ground as the meeting was briefly suspended.
“Hong Kong is marching towards the beginning of the end of ‘one country, two systems’,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo after the meeting ended.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan accused security guards of Hong Kong’s legislature of “losing their impartiality,” after the security guards surrounded the bench where the chairperson was seated and prevented pro-democracy lawmakers from getting close.
Lawmakers clashed over the same issue on May 8, when Lee occupied the chairperson’s seat more than an hour before the meeting was scheduled to start, saying that external legal counsel had advised that she had the power to preside over House Committee meetings.
Pro-democracy lawmakers accused her of abusing her power and staged a walkout, leaving Lee and the pro-Beijing camp to clear several bills.