Pro-Beijing camp favourite Starry Lee of the DAB party has been elected House Committee chairperson, winning an overwhelming majority of the votes despite a short-lived protest from democrats.
The lawmaker, who chaired the last House Committee session, secured all 40 votes in an election that saw embattled presiding member Chan Kin-por push past democrats’ attempts to stall proceedings on Monday.
Last Friday, the president of the Legislative Council (LegCo) Andrew Leung announced plans to replace democrat Dennis Kwok with Chan as presiding member.
The move followed more than six months of deadlock over the election of the committee’s chair and deputy chair, with opposition lawmakers accused of filibustering and creating a backlog of legislative business.
The Hong Kong government has also pushed for a resolution, saying priority must be given to passing a controversial National Anthem bill this month. The proposed law would penalise deliberate alterations to the anthem and derogatory performances, landing violators with a fine or jail time.
At 10:15 am, 45 minutes before the scheduled start time, Chan took the seat of the presiding member while surrounded by security personnel.
Shortly before 11am, democrats created a barrier around the chairperson’s seat using a black cloth and attempted to push through security, leading to a scuffle.
The democrats, who consider Kwok to be the rightful presiding member, chanted “Chan Kin-po, foul play,” as some engaged in heated exchanges with their pro-Beijing counterparts.
Holden Chow from the pro-Beijing DAB party and Lam Cheuk-ting from the Democratic Party square off as opposing lawmakers and security guards tussle for control of the floor. pic.twitter.com/icNWpyJPrI— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@HongKongFP) May 18, 2020
In the midst of the chaos, Lam Cheuk-ting from the Democratic Party tore pages from the LegCo’s Rules of Procedure and tossed them across the room.
At one point, his colleague Ted Hui appeared injured as social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun urged security to give him space, saying Hui could not breathe.
Pro-Beijing legislators later began a rival chant in support of the presiding member, shouting: “Chan Kin-por, good job.”
Pro-Beijing lawmakers have started a rival chant: “Chan Kin-por, good job.” pic.twitter.com/skUD1e3c0B— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@HongKongFP) May 18, 2020
By 11:50 am, only a handful of democrats remained after security carried out protesting lawmakers one by one.
Chan pressed ahead with the election amid chants from Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung, who continued to shout “Chan Kin-por, foul play.”
Ejected lawmakers Hui, Eddie Chu and Roy Kwong sat outside the meeting room during the election in protest.
Speaking to the press, the Civic Party’s Tanya Chan later accused Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the pro-establishment camp of working “hand-in-hand” to push through the national anthem bill.
“What happened at the meeting has subverted our past understanding of the rules of procedures, principles and existing practices. We do not wish to pass the evil law, but more importantly, we don’t wish to see the pro-establishment camp eroding the Hong Kong legislative system recklessly,” she said.
Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions legislator Alice Mak condemned the pan-democrats, saying that the use of a black cloth was “blatantly” intended to obscure illegal and violent acts.
“It is evident that they had the intent to violate the law… We all hope Legco can resume normal operations after today,” she said.
“Over the past several months, [the House Committee has been] unable to elect a new chair and has wasted over HK$7 million of taxpayers money. We hope the Council can now operate efficiently and with discipline.”