Clashes erupt in LegCo as pro-Beijing camp installs Starry Lee as committee chair

Pan-democratic lawmakers point at presiding member Chan Kin-po and accuse him of foul play as security guards hold them back from the podium. Screengrab: RTHK via Facebook
Pan-democratic lawmakers point at presiding member Chan Kin-po and accuse him of foul play as security guards hold them back from the podium. Screengrab: RTHK via Facebook

DAB leader Starry Lee was re-elected as the House Committee chairwoman by a pro-establishment bloc today after a chaotic meeting which saw 15 out of 20 pan-democratic lawmakers ejected from the Legislative Council chamber.

Following a months-long standstill, LegCo president Andrew Leung appointed pro-establishment lawmaker Chan Kin-por to preside over today’s meeting in order to ensure that the election took place. At 10:15 — 45 minutes before the election was scheduled to begin — Chan made his way to the podium while surrounded by dozens of LegCo security guards.

In protest, a group of democrats held a black cloth — which symbolized the pro-establishment camp’s lack of transparency — around the podium while chanting slogans accusing Chan of “foul play” and holding signs saying “abuse of power” and “CCP tramples HK legislature”.

The two camps faced off against each other on the floor, with individual lawmakers shouting opposing slogans over each other while security guards began ejecting democratic lawmakers on Chan’s orders.

By 11:10am, Chan had ordered for five pan-democrats to be ejected, including the Civic Party’s Tanya Chan and Ted Hui of the Democratic Party. Hui, who resisted his ejection, was forcibly removed from the chamber by LegCo security guards. Hui shared a photo of the guards subduing him with “black cop tactics” like pressing on his neck, leg, and chest, and said he was unable to breathe at one point after the guards pressed his knees into his chest. Hui later shared a photo indicating that he had to receive medical care for injuries to his chest.

Chan suspended the meeting for 30 minutes, after which another 10 democrats were forcibly removed from the chamber. Following the pan-democratic lawmakers’ expulsion, 40 pro-establishment lawmakers unanimously voted to re-install Lee as the committee chair. The five pan-democratic lawmakers who remained in the chamber were not given ballots, as they continued to protest Chan’s actions instead of taking their seats.

With Lee in power, the committee will prioritize the passing of a number of controversial bills, including the contentious National Anthem bill, which would require everyone to “stand solemnly” during the anthem, and criminalize any amendment to the lyrics, parodies, or “inappropriate” use of the song.

Until early May, LegCo’s legal advisers said that protocol barred Lee, whose previous term as House Committee chair expired in October, from presiding over committee meetings until her re-election. As the committee’s deputy chairman, Dennis Kwok of the Civic Party presided over all 17 House Committee meetings from October until the last meeting on May 8.

Since Kwok took control of the meetings, both the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong have singled him out for “paralyzing” the legislature with “malicious” filibustering, and ordered him to be ousted for blocking the passage of bills which the pan-democratic camp opposed.

On May 8, Lee ran up to the podium over an hour before the committee meeting was scheduled to begin, and took control of the floor with a circle of her pro-establishment allies and LegCo security staff protecting her from democratic lawmakers. Over the hours-long meeting, Lee ordered the ejection of 10 opposition lawmakers by force, two of whom sustained injuries which required medical attention.

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