Former lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang have vowed to “fearlessly” resist political oppression following their surprise arrest on Wednesday morning.
“Don’t dream that the government will reconcile with the opposition camp – it will only continue oppressing voices for self-determination. But we will fearlessly fight for our ideals,” Yau said outside the Central Police Station on Wednesday afternoon.
The pair are facing one charge of allegedly participating in an unlawful assembly, and an alternative charge of forced entry. They paid HK$3,000 bail money and will appear at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Friday.
But they said it is “very unlikely” that they will plead guilty to the charges. Leung added that three of their former assistants are facing similar charges and will appear in court together with them on Friday.
Wednesday’s arrests were related to a chaotic episode at the legislature on November 2 last year, when the pair tried to barge into a meeting room following Legislative Council President Andrew Leung’s decision to bar them from attending any meetings. At the time, the duo were facing a judicial review case filed by the government challenging the validity of their oaths of office.
The chaos left three security guards injured and hospitalised. The pro-Beijing camp and the Legislative Council Secretariat called police for assistance.
‘Unreasonable and unacceptable’
Two weeks after the incident, the High Court ruled that the oaths of Yau and Leung were invalid, thereby disqualifying them from the legislature. Baggio Leung argued that they were still lawmakers before the ruling.
He described the charge of unlawful assembly as “bizarre, unreasonable and unacceptable” on the basis that lawmakers are entitled to attend meetings to fulfil their duty.
He added that he and Yau were politically targeted because technically “unlawful assembly takes place every day.” He gave the example of Tuesday’s football match at Mong Kok stadium where Chinese football fans unfurled an anti-Hong Kong independence banner.
“That was also unlawful assembly, and they harassed a lot of Hong Kong people,” Leung said.
Political group Civil Human Rights Front also argued that the pair should have been considered lawmakers on the day in question.
“[Yau and Leung] were entitled to attend the meeting. Those who unreasonably prevented the pair from fulfilling their duty as lawmakers should be condemned,” it said.
It also accused incumbent leader Leung Chung-ying of cleansing the camp of dissident voices in preparation of the assumption of office by incoming chief executive Carrie Lam in July. It said political oppression had intensified since the Legislative Council election last September.
It urged the pro-democracy camp and civil groups to stand united. “Even if we disapprove of their ideologies, we will fight to the death to defend their political rights,” it added.
Lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said “the government should take all the blame” on the basis that the chaos would not have occurred had the duo’s oaths not been challenged.
He added that Andrew Leung should also be partly responsible as he decided to bar Yau and Leung from attending meetings.
The pro-democracy Demosisto party said in a statement that the “politically driven” arrest on Wednesday showed it was unrealistic to expect the new government to mend its relationship with the pro-democracy camp.
Meanwhile, lawmaker Starry Lee, leader of the pro-Beijing DAB party said everyone should take responsibility for their actions if a security officer is hurt: “We have to trust our police and our relevant department[s].”