Pro-democracy legislators were dragged out of Hong Kong’s legislature recently as pro-China forces sought to tighten their control over Hong Kong’s government.
The issue that incited the violence was the selection of a new leader for a powerful committee in the legislature, according to The New York Times.
Pro-China legislators removed pro-democracy legislator Dennis Kwok, who they claimed had been refusing to move legislation forward that would make it illegal to disrespect the Chinese national anthem.
Although the Chinese anthem technically became that of Hong Kong when it was returned to China in 1997 as a semi-autonomous region, the Chinese anthem is often booed when played in public places such as sporting events. The legislation that supporters of China want passed would make such activity a crime.
To get that legislation out of limbo, the pro-China group needed to get control of the committee that decides what legislation is voted on and when.
A heated May 18 session to do just that began when pro-China legislator Chan Kin-por was picked to preside over the selection of a new leader.
Opposition legislators wanted to drape a black cloth over the dais where Chan sat as a protest, but were turned back by security guards.
Legislators brought signs with them, including one that read, “[Chinese Community Party] tramples HK legislature.”
Order faded rapidly.
Lam Cheuk Ting, a pro-democracy legislator, tore pages from the legislature’s rule book and threw them about.
Several pro-democracy lawmakers were then dragged out, according to the BBC.
“If Hong Kong was a democracy, we would not need to start scuffles like this,” said legislator Eddie Chu.
“Unfortunately we are forced into this situation. I can foresee more fights within the chamber and outside the chamber,” he said.
After the legislators were removed, pro-China legislator Starry Lee was elected committee chair.
Kwok said Lee’s election broke the rules.
When the “pro-establishment camp don’t like something, they will do whatever it takes, including breaking the system that we have and the rules that we have,” Kwok said.
“The price of freedom is constant vigilance,” he said.
In analyzing the incident, the BBC’s Lam Cho Wai wrote that “Beijing has accused the pro-democracy camps of ‘malicious’ filibustering, effectively paralyzing the legislature.”
“What happened inside the chamber is another sign that China continues to tighten its grip on Hong Kong,” Wai wrote.
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