Hong Kong police arrested and charged three former opposition lawmakers on Wednesday over their attempts to disrupt the passage of the national anthem bill earlier this year by using rotten plants or fertiliser to create a stink in the legislature.
Ted Hui Chi-fung, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick were arrested at their homes at around 7am, charged and released on bail in the afternoon, and were expected to appear at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
Without identifying them, police confirmed that three men, aged between 38 and 48, had been arrested on contempt charges under the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance.
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The law states that anyone who “creates or joins in any disturbance which interrupts or is likely to interrupt” the proceedings of Legco meetings can be considered to have acted illegally. Offenders are liable to a fine of HK$10,000 (US$1,282) and 12 months in prison.
Police said the trio were also detained on suspicion of violating the Offences against the Person Ordinance, under which anyone who unlawfully and maliciously administers “noxious” material with intent to injure, aggrieve, or annoy a person is considered to have broken the law. The maximum penalty for this offence is three years behind bars.
Hui was bailed for HK$2,000, while Chan and Chu were released on bail of HK$1,000 each.
The latest crackdown came less than three weeks after seven opposition politicians, including Chan and Chu, were arrested and charged with contempt and interfering with Legco officers during a chaotic meeting in May that descended into shouting and scuffles.
Upon his release, Hui said the latest arrests showed that the government had not finished going after Hong Kong’s opposition.
“If police can meddle in the legislature any time, what’s the use of the Legco’s rules of procedure?” he said.
The events that led to the trio’s arrests unfolded on May 28 and June 4, and involved what police described as a “foul-smelling liquid” being released in the Legco chamber.
Emergency services were called in during the session on May 28 when lawmakers were set to debate the national anthem law, which would criminalise insults against March of the Volunteers.
Hui dropped a container of rotten plants on the floor and was accused of attempting to kick it at Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.
Hui said he had wanted to symbolically show that the “one country, two systems” policy of governing Hong Kong had become “rotten”, and Leung should get a “taste” of it.
The three again tried to disrupt the passage of the bill on June 4, with Chan and Chu dropping fertiliser on the floor of the Legco chamber before they were kicked out.
The bill passed during that session, and the trio were later ordered to pay damages of up to HK$252,000.
Hui on Wednesday said it was “ridiculous” for police to use criminal charges to go after lawmakers for their actions in the legislature. Authorities have countered that while their speech within the chamber is protected, their physical acts are not.
Chan accused police of “cherry-picking” legislation to use against them by arresting him under the Offences against the Person Ordinance, which carries a heavier sentence.
He said he had not intended to harm anyone, and accused the force of making it sound like he had used a “biological weapon” at the Legco meeting.
Chan complained that while he was being prosecuted, police had terminated their investigation into his own allegations that he had been assaulted by pro-establishment lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung during another chaotic Legco meeting earlier this year.
“It’s political persecution,” Chan said, after being released. “I am outraged and I believe that many Hong Kong citizens are angry, too.”
Using a cruder analogy, Chu said if he could be prosecuted for creating a stink in the chamber under such circumstances, anyone who broke wind somewhere could be similarly charged.
This article Three former Hong Kong opposition lawmakers charged over bid to disrupt passage of national anthem law first appeared on South China Morning Post