Brawl breaks out at legislative session in Hong Kong, at least one lawmaker injured
HONG KONG - Politicians are known to occasionally engage in verbal spars with rivals, but it's not too often that their arguments come to physical blows during official legislative sessions.
According to The Associated Press that's exactly what happened during a legislative session in Hong Kong on Friday when security guards were forced to haul several angry pro-democracy lawmakers out of the meeting.
It all started when Starry Lee, who serves as the chairperson of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, claimed that as the previous chair, she had the authority to preside over the meeting, and proceeded to occupy the seat for more than an hour before the meeting's scheduled start.
Other lawmakers in opposition to Lee started for the bench, but Lee's supporters and security staff worked to keep them at bay.
The two sides shouted at each other and the yelling eventually escalated into violence.
Scuffles broke out when Lee called the meeting to order, with pro-democracy lawmakers rushing the bench as security guards shoved back.
The guards carried out several pro-democracy lawmakers, including Eddie Chu and Ray Chan, who were ordered to leave due to disorderly conduct.
“I have not seized power, I am the incumbent chairperson of the House Committee,” said Lee, urging lawmakers to take their seats.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo called Lee a “vicious Beijing little worm,” and others chanted “Starry Lee, step down.”
Pro-Beijing lawmakers countered that Kwok was abusing his power.
Most of the pro-democracy lawmakers eventually walked out of the meeting of the committee, which normally scrutinizes bills and determines when they can be put to a final vote. The session was later briefly suspended after pro-democracy politician Kwok Wing-kin, who was watching from the public viewing balcony, was dragged away by security guards after he threw a stack of papers down into the chamber.
In rebuking Kwok last month, China's liaison office in Hong Kong called for him to be prosecuted for misconduct in public office. The legislature's legal adviser, Connie Fung, who said last year that Lee does not have the authority to preside and a new chair must be elected, reversed her position Friday. She said Lee could preside because of the abnormal condition of a chair not being elected for six months.
It wasn't clear whether Lee's move ended the impasse, with pro-democracy lawmakers saying they would continue to fight.
Dozens of anti-government protesters gathered in a nearby shopping mall in the evening, shouting pro-democracy slogans.
Beijing’s criticism of Kwok sparked debate over whether it has the power to intervene in Hong Kong’s internal affairs under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.
The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under a “one-country, two-systems” framework in which Hong Kong was given freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland and promised a high degree of autonomy in its affairs for 50 years.
Differences between the pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps were sharpened after months of sometimes violent protests sparked by an attempt to pass legislation — later withdrawn — that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to China to face trials.
Previously, the legislature had passed a motion allowing a bill that extended maternity leave to bypass the House Committee, and was criticized by pro-democracy lawmakers as setting a bad precedent for bills to pass without the scrutiny of the committee.
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