Seven Hong Kong democrats were arrested on Sunday morning in connection with chaotic scenes that emerged during a Legislative Council (LegCo) House Committee meeting in May.

The Democratic Party said on Facebook that its chairman Wu Chi-wai, members Andrew Wan and Helena Wong were among those detained on suspicion of contempt and interference with LegCo officers under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance. The Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung and Steven Kwok were rounded up too, as well as ex-lawmakers Eddie Chu and Raymond Chan, according to their Facebook pages.

seven democrats
Eddie Chu, Wu Chi-wai, Andrew Wan, Helena Wong, Ray Chan, Fernando Cheung and Kwok Wing-kin.

Police confirmed with HKFP that six men and one woman were taken into custody on Sunday. The force said the arrests were linked to a report from the LegCo Secretariat on May 8 saying there was disorderly behaviour in the legislature.

“[The] Police arrest operation is still in progress, we do not rule out the possibility that more people may be arrested,” the force said in an email.

On May 8, legislators from the pro-democracy camp staged a protest during a House Committee meeting by encircling the incumbent chair Starry Lee of the pro-Beijing DAB party as she attempted to commence the meeting.

legco house committee (2)
Pages of the Rules of Procedure are scattered all over the conference room after being thrown down from the public and media gallery. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Beijing accused the democrats of “malicious filibustering” to paralyse the legislature after the House Committee – which held 16 meetings presided over by the Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok – failed to elect a new chairperson. China’s agencies in Hong Kong had said that such stalling tactics could be in breach of the lawmakers’ oaths and they may be guilty of misconduct in public office.

The meeting on May 8 came after LegCo President Andrew Leung said the incumbent chair – Lee – had the power to tackle a backlog of legislative business, including scrutinising bills which had accumulated owing to the months-long backlog.

During their demonstration, democratic lawmakers held placards reading “Starry Lee Ultra Vires.” Some tried to push past the security guards around Lee while many pro-establishment legislators live-streamed the chaotic scenes from their phones.

The democrats who protested were ejected by Lee as security personnel removed then-lawmakers Chu and Chan from the conference room. The Labour Party’s Kwok later tore out pages from the LegCo Rules of Procedure and tossed them from the viewing gallery. A security guard fell as he attempted to stop Kwok and appeared to hit his head.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung, who was seen in footage dragging Chan along the floor, was not arrested.

A spokesperson for the Democratic Party criticised the arrests and said that they expected democrat Ted Hui to also be arrested: “We strongly condemn the government for making arbitrary arrests and we urge them to release all Democrats unconditionally and immediately. We will not back down in the face of an authoritarian regime. We will continue fighting.”

The row over the House Committee chairperson election ended in mid-May as LegCo head Leung appointed pro-establishment Chan Kin-por as the presiding member. The committee eventually reelected Lee as the chair on May 18.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.