A fifth Hong Kong opposition lawmaker was arrested on Monday over a chaotic Legislative Council meeting in May, taking the total number of detained activists and legislators from the bloc to eight.
Democratic Party legislator Ted Hui Chi-fung was held when he reported to Western Police Station that morning for a separate matter, according to his party.
He was arrested and charged with two offences under the Legco (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance – contempt and interference with the legislature’s officers – at a tumultuous sitting of the House Committee on May 8. Hui, who was later granted bail, accused police of making an arbitrary arrest.
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Seven of Hui’s political allies, including incumbent and former lawmakers as well as activists, were arrested on Sunday and also charged with contempt and interference offences under the ordinance.
The May 8 mayhem broke out after months of members failing to elect a new chairman of the House Committee, which is responsible for scrutinising government bills before they are put to a vote in the legislature.
The pro-establishment bloc had accused Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who for procedural reasons was presiding over the meetings, of deliberately delaying the selection process in a bid to block the passage of laws that the opposition disagreed with, including the now-passed national anthem bill.
Eleven opposition lawmakers were thrown out of the meeting that day by pro-establishment camp leader Starry Lee Wai-king, as she tried to take control of the committee, a move pan-democrats slammed as an abuse of power. She was later re-elected chairwoman of the committee.
Police arrested seven key opposition figures on Sunday. They are Democratic Party lawmakers Wu Chi-wai, Helena Wong Pik-wan and Andrew Wan Siu-kin; Labour Party chairman Kwok Wing-kin; lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung; as well as Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, who were serving as lawmakers at the time.
All seven and Hui are due to appear at Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday.
Hui was reportedly on police’s wanted list on Sunday, but officers had failed to reach him.
He was arrested on Monday morning when reporting to police’s regional headquarters in Western district over an unrelated charge relating to a rally in Tuen Mun on July 6.
“Even if I am arrested later, I will remain fearless and continue to fight for Hongkongers’ democracy,” he said on Monday before entering the police station.
The pan-democratic camp has condemned the arrests as “selective” and politically motivated, given no pro-establishment lawmakers were detained, even though some had been involved in physical clashes during the meeting.
Under the Legco ordinance cited, anyone who creates or joins in a disturbance likely to interrupt the proceedings of the council or a committee, faces a potential fine of HK$10,000 (US$1,290) and imprisonment of up to 12 months.
The same maximum punishment applies to anyone who assaults, interferes with, molests, resists or obstructs any officer of the council while in the execution of his duty.
Earlier, a top government adviser rejected suggestions that political suppression was at play.
Executive Council member Ronny Tong Ka-wah, also a senior counsel, told a radio show: “We can’t say [the arrest] was political suppression or restraining lawmakers’ rights and freedom. Rights and freedom do not mean that you can simply interfere with the operation of the council, or damage its dignity.”
Tong said it was previously established in court, in a case involving former legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, that the Legco ordinance only protected lawmakers’ speech, not other behaviour.
In November 2016, Leung was accused of grabbing a folder belonging to the then development undersecretary Eric Ma Siu-cheung.
Two years later a magistrate found that Leung’s actions were covered by privilege. But the Court of Appeal ruled in June that lawmakers were not immune from contempt charges if they disrupted Legco meetings, and gave the green light to restore criminal proceedings against Leung.
The ex-lawmaker has since applied to the Court of Final Appeal to challenge that ruling.
Alan Leong Kah-kit, chairman of the Civic Party, said there was a political purpose behind the arrests and accused police of being selective in those they targeted under the legislation.
“The ordinance used to be the imperial sword of Legco. But now it is used by the executive authorities led by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to attack lawmakers,” he said.
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