Two Hong Kong district councillors were told to stop posting derogatory notices that linked the police to dogs and said pro-government supporters were not welcome, but they vowed to keep up with their antics.
The Home Affairs Department, which helps the district councils carry out their role, issued the order on Tuesday and warned the two pro-democracy politicians involved – Civic Party member Andy Lao Ka-hang and independent Leos Lee Man-ho – their behaviour could breach the governing code of conduct and rules over pay and expenses reimbursement.
But the pair were defiant. “They are only bluffing,” Lee said. “The department has no right to vet our expenses so long as they are submitted properly.”
The department said it had received complaints over the handwritten notices, posted outside the joint office the councillors share in Sham Shui Po, that read “blue ribbons and dogs are not allowed in”.
Hong Kong’s political spectrum has been divided into two camps: “blue” for pro-establishment supporters and “yellow” for democracy activists ever since protests over a now-withdrawn extradition bill erupted this past summer.
During the often violent exchanges on the front lines of the rallies, protesters hurled insults at the police, calling them “dogs”, while backers of the establishment and riot officers responded with the term “cockroaches”.
One notice posted on the councillors’ office read: “This office does not provide services to any blue ribbons.”
The department said Lao and Lee might have breached the governing code of conduct and rules over their pay, but did not say whether they would face repercussions.
“A district council member should use public funds in an open, fair and accountable manner,” it said.
“The display of notices … may not be consistent with the guiding principles of the remuneration guidelines.”
The department said the pair had been told to remove the notices and that Sham Shui Po district council chairman, Yeung Yuk of the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, had been asked to follow up.
Lee said the original notice had been removed after some people spat on it, but they would put up a new one along the same lines.
Lao argued the statement did not amount to discrimination under the city’s laws, noting the Equal Opportunities Commission had made a similar relevant judgment earlier.
A spokesman for the Equal Opportunities Commission said on Tuesday it had received 1,000 complaints and enquiries mostly concerning the notices.
The commission said there was no legal basis to become involved over such public expressions as the content of the notices did not involve anything protected under the city’s four anti-discrimination ordinances covering race, sex, disability and marital status.
Sham Shui Po district council is currently dominated by 23 pro-democracy politicians, with two from the pro-government camp.
A Civic Party source said no action had been taken against Lao and that what he did as a district councillor was a matter of “his own judgments”.
Pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Vincent Cheng Wing-shun, also a member of the council, said “such behaviour was a severe conduct code violation that should be followed up seriously”.
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