Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung walked out of a health panel meeting at Hong Kong’s legislature on Friday after being interrupted by chairperson Tommy Cheung, who urged her not to code-switch between Cantonese and English.

Earlier in the meeting, Leung urged “victims” of seven doctors accused of issuing false Covid-19 vaccination exemption certificates to sue.

Priscilla Leung
Priscilla Leung speaks at the Legislative Council on October 14. Photo: Legislative Council, via video screenshot.

The Legislative Council Panel on Health Services met with Secretary of Health Lo Chung-mau and other health officials on Friday morning to discuss the city’s Covid-19 measures. The government announced of a new round of relaxations to social distancing rules on Thursday.

When it was Leung’s term to speak, she brought up the issue of vaccine exemption certificates, 20,000 of which were due to be invalidated on Wednesday after the doctors who issued them were suspected of doing so without following Department of Health guidelines. Six of the seven doctors identified by police have been arrested, but the invalidation of the documents was halted by a legal challenge.

Leung called those who held certificates issued by the doctors in question “victims” and urged them to sue the practitioners.

She also asked how the government could stop these doctors from issuing more certificates and why it took the authorities so long to realise that some 300 civil servants were holders of potentially invalid vaccine exemption certificates.

“I am not a data science expert, but some irregular things should have been observable,” Leung said, uttering the words “data science expert” and “irregular” in English.

Tommy Cheung
Tommy Cheung, the chairperson of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Health Services. Photo: Legislative Council, via video screenshot.

Panel chair Cheung interrupted her immediately, saying: “I hope everyone either speaks in Chinese or in English, without mixing up the two languages.”

Leung responded by telling Cheung not to “waste” her time.

“I don’t want to waste your time. I have an order to uphold, alright?” Cheung said.

The two pro-establishment figures then went back and forth about whether Cheung should grant Leung more time to compensate for the interruption for nearly a whole minute. At the start of the meeting, Cheung had set the time limit for each Q&A between legislators and officials to four minutes only.

During the back and forth, Cheung told Leung not to code-switch between Cantonese and English four times, saying it could disrupt the work of the live interpreter.

Priscilla Leung
Priscilla Leung walks out of a health panel meeting on October 14. Photo: Legislative Council, via video screenshot.

In the end, Leung ignored Cheung and addressed Lo directly, asking the health chief to answer her questions. “Chairperson, if you continue to act like this, everyone will be disgruntled!” Leung added.

Lo only responded to Leung’s question about the action the government was taking against the doctors in question. He said the matter would be handed over to the Medical Council of Hong Kong, which oversees the registration of medical practitioners if “fraudulent” situations arise.

In addition, he said the doctors in question were no longer able to provide services, such as issuing more vaccine exemptions, giving jabs or accepting elderly health care vouchers.

After listening to Lo’s reply, Leung flung the document she was holding onto the desk, got up from her chair, and left the panel meeting immediately.

‘Patriots only’ legislature

In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.

Hong Kong’s first “patriots only” legislature poll under the revamped system was held in December last year. The election saw a record low turnout as pro-government candidates swept into the expanded legislature, with only one seat won by self-proclaimed non-establishment candidate Tik Chi-yuen.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.