Hong Kong’s independent judiciary will decide whether to prosecute eight pro-democracy lawmakers and other politicians arrested on Sunday and Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday, and politics will not play a part in the decision.
The arrest of the eight following scuffles and protests in the legislature in May has sparked widespread criticism, including from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But Lam said lawmakers were not free to behave as they wished in the chamber.
“It’s not because there is something called the Powers and Privileges Ordinance that members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) can do whatever they like in the council chamber,” she told her weekly press conference.
“As enshrined in the Basic Law, everybody is equal before the law. Nobody, including the chief executive, is above the law,” she said. “If there is a legal provision and sufficient evidence to demonstrate that certain individuals, including LegCo members, have breached the law, including this Powers and Privileges Ordinance, then there is a case to answer.”
The eight were taken into police custody on Sunday in relation to a LegCo secretariat report about “disorderly behaviour” in the legislature, according to a police statement. They have since been bailed. They are Democratic Party chief Wu Chi-Wai, members Ted Hui, Andrew Wan and Helena Wong, the Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung and Steven Kwok and ex-lawmakers Eddie Chu and Raymond Chan.
They were arrested on suspicion of contempt and interference with LegCo officers, under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance, according to a statement from the Democratic Party.
On May 8, pro-democracy legislators who were trying to retain control of the influential House Committee staged a protest by encircling the incumbent chair Starry Lee of the pro-Beijing DAB party as she tried to begin proceedings.
Critics have pointed out that no pro-government legislators were arrested even though some were involved in the disorder. People Power party chairman Raymond Chan was seen to be dragged to the ground by pro-government lawmaker Kwok Wai-Keung during the incident. Chan subsequently accused Kwok of assault in a rare private prosecution.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Pompeo said the US “strongly condemn[s]” the arrests. “This attempt to intimidate pro-democracy representatives is another example of the Hong Kong government’s complicity with the authoritarian CCP,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. “We stand with the people of Hong Kong.”