Former Hong Kong legislator Fernando Cheung has been released from jail, after serving three weeks for contempt in connection with a protest he staged with fellow democrats in the legislature in May 2020.
The 65-year-old walked out of Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre on Thursday morning with a clear plastic bag containing his personal items, local media reported. The ex-Social Welfare constituency lawmaker was put behind bars earlier this month after he pleaded guilty to committing contempt.
He admitted to breaching the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance by chanting slogans for close to 44 minutes during a House Committee meeting in the LegCo on May 8, 2020.
On that day, Cheung and numerous opposition lawmakers tried to stop Starry Lee, chairwoman of the pro-Beijing DAB party, from asserting control over the committee, which had been at an impasse for months after it failed to elect a new chairperson and deputy chairperson.
Cheung was said to have caused chaos in the meeting by raising a placard and shouting “Lee Wai-king” – the pro-Beijing lawmaker’s full name – in front of Lee, who was surrounded by LegCo security personnel.
Some democrats raised a sign reading “Lee Wai-king. Ultra vires,” using a Latin term for overstepping one’s authority. Lawmakers from the pro-establishment camp countered by holding placards that read “Opposition camp violates the oath.”
Lee expelled most of the protesting democrats, others staged a walkout. Andrew Wan of the Democratic Party was carried out on a stretcher by medics.
The House Committee is responsible for scrutinising bills and subsidiary legislations tabled at the legislature. At the time of the chaos, the House Committee was presented with the controversial proposed national anthem law that sought to penalise deliberate alterations to March of the Volunteers. The bill was eventually passed in June that year with support from the pro-Beijing majority, while opposition lawmakers did not cast their votes.
Dennis Kwok of the Civic Party had overseen the committee meetings as the incumbent deputy chair since October 2019. But Beijing accused the democrat of abusing his power to interfere with the legislature’s internal proceedings, and for causing major delays in reviewing bills concerning public livelihood.
Speaking to reporters outside the correctional facility, Cheung said while his 21-day prison term was not long, his life behind bars was “tough,” as he was separated from his family, local media reported.
Cheung’s ex-colleague and democrat Shiu Ka-chun was among those who waited for the former politician to be released.
Cheung called on the authorities to make arrangements for inmates who saw their time in custody being extended after the Covid-19 pandemic delayed their court appearances. He also urged people not to forget his “friends” and other Hongkongers who are still in detention.
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