Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui was arrested on Monday, becoming the eighth democrat arrested since Sunday in connection to a chaotic meeting at the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo). The pro-democracy camp has condemned the arrest of lawmakers during the controversial House Committee session in May, saying they amount to political oppression.
The lawmaker was due to report to Western Police Station on Monday morning for another offence in connection to a Tuen Mun Park assembly last July. Shortly after he entered the police station, the party wrote on Facebook that he had been arrested for allegedly contravening the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance over the May 8 meeting.
Hui told reporters that he was aware the police visited his residence on Sunday and Monday morning when he was not home. He added that he received several missed calls since Sunday but he was unclear about who was trying to contact him. He also wrote on Facebook that he did not receive any messages from the force, but heard from media sources that he was on the list of arrestees.
“The case involved the internal affairs of the LegCo. The polices’ high-profile intervention with their power and the judiciary is disgraceful,” he condemned the arrests.
Seven democrats were arrested on Sunday over the incident. Incumbent lawmakers Andrew Wan, Helena Wong, Fernando Cheung, ex-lawmakers Ray Chan and Eddie Chu, as well as Labour Party Chair Kwok Wing-kin were suspected of contempt. Chu, Chan, Wan, Kwok and Democratic Party Chair Wu Chi-wai stand accused of interference with members, officers or witnesses.
At the meeting, democrats encircled the incumbent chair Starry Lee of the pro-Beijing DAB party as she attempted to commence proceedings and elect a chairperson. The head of the legislature previously deemed that she had the power to tackle a backlog of legislative business. It followed months of stalemate over the selection of a chairperson, with Beijing accusing democrats of “malicious filibustering.”
Incumbent pro-democracy lawmakers held a press conference hours after the arrests on Sunday and condemned the government for making arbitrary arrests, politically-motivated prosecutions, and for oppressing protests inside the legislature. Wu said that expressing one’s opinion in front of the chairperson’s podium was a common means of protest, but the police chose to prosecute the group under a criminal offence to deter others from speaking out. Wu also said the arrests were in line with President Andrew Leung’s earlier warning about a tightening grip on LegCo debates.
Meanwhile, Cheung said the police could have arrested them by appointment but they opted for an intimidating arrest in the early morning. Police arrived at his residence at 7am and presented a search warrant that included a wide range of items such as clothes, books and electronic devices. He said he doubted the search was necessary since most of the lawmakers actions were filmed by journalists and made public.
Wan, who sustained an injury during the chaotic meeting, accused pro-Beijing lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong of elbowing him. “I was hospitalised on the day over the injury… The police later started an investigation into the incident… I am a plaintiff-turned defendant.”
Police superintendent Chan Wing-yu said the force arrested six males and one female – aged 33 to 63 – including incumbent lawmakers, ex-lawmakers and one lawmaker assistant on Sunday.
He added that, during the preparation for the meeting, some lawmakers were causing a disturbance – including storming towards security guards near the chairperson podium, which caused a halt in the meeting. Someone else threw papers from above, and the force were called in by the LegCo Secretariat.
“Law enforcement action was taken in accordance with the law and evidence gathered during the investigation,” Chan said. “It’s not about their social status or political background,” he said.
Chan said he would not confirm or deny whether anyone else will be arrested as the operation was ongoing. He also refused to comment as to what each of the democrats had done after a reporter stated that Helena Wong had only chanted slogans, according to footage.
According to the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance article 17(b), any person who creates or joins in any disturbance which interrupts – or is likely to interrupt – the proceedings of the Council or a committee while the Council or such committee is sitting may be committing an offence of contempt. Any person who tampers with, deters, threatens, molests or in any way unduly influences any witness in regard to any evidence to be given by him before the Council or a committee, according to 19(c) of the ordinance, may be considered as interfering with members, officers or witnesses. Those convicted of both offences face a fine of HK$10,000 and a year behind bars.