Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp has said the arrests of seven lawmakers will stir up renewed chaos ahead of the district council elections and accused the government of paving the way to cancel the polls.
But Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen on Saturday said the arrests had nothing to do with the elections and reiterated that the government would do its best to hold the polls as scheduled on November 24.
“We will closely monitor developments. We truly hope, with all our hearts, that such an important election can be held peacefully and in an orderly fashion,” Nip said.
“There is no correlation between the [arrests and the elections]. The police are doing their job and investigating each and every case, and will take appropriate action when ready.”
He admitted the move could fuel more discontent, but urged the public not to read too much into the arrests, adding that his bureau had not been aware of the police action beforehand.
As the death of student Chow Tsz-lok, the first fatality from injuries sustained during a police operation, caused public mourning and violent protests on Friday, the second lightning rod for public anger appeared later in the night.
Three pro-democracy lawmakers – Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, Au Nok-hin and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen – were arrested overnight while another four – Leung Yiu-chung, Kwok Ka-ki, Gary Fan Kwok-wai and Lam Cheuk-ting – were told they would be arrested for interfering with other lawmakers attending a Legislative Council meeting on May 11 this year.
On that day, pro-establishment lawmaker Abraham Razack had planned to chair a committee meeting on the now-withdrawn extradition bill, when he was stopped by a group of opposition lawmakers. They said Razack was not duly elected and his meeting would have no legal effect. Razack had been appointed as chairman by the Legco secretariat after pan-democrats deployed delaying tactics to stop the committee from electing a chair.
“The government wants to arrest lawmakers who pointed out the problems but it does not want to solve the ongoing social unrest,” Tanya Chan, convenor of the 24 pro-democracy lawmakers, said on Saturday morning. “That is putting the cart before the horse.
“They are pouring oil on the fire in the hope of creating conditions that will allow them to cancel the district council elections.”
Tanya Chan called on the public to show restraint and said the camp would press ahead with its election campaign.
Raymond Chan was charged with two offences of interfering with pro-establishment lawmakers, Elizabeth Quat and Holden Chow Ho-ding, while they were attending a Legco meeting. He said: “Yesterday was the saddest day for us following the death of Chow, but the government chose it for a mass arrest. It is to turn the public into enemies.”
The arrested trio were all charged with between two and four offences of interfering with lawmakers attending a Legco meeting. They were released on court bail of HK$1,000 and ordered to appear at Eastern Magistrates Court on Monday.
Leung, Kwok and Fan reported to police headquarters on Saturday at 7pm while Lam said he would wait for the police to arrest him at Legco. By 9.15pm, they still had not left.
“Carrie Lam said she will reflect on her mistakes and speak with the public. It is all trash talk,” lawmaker Lam said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Night of violence and grief in Hong Kong as city mourns death of student Chow Tsz-lok, leading to confrontations with police and vandalism at university
- Hong Kong politicians urge election authority to increase manpower to probe complaints of irregularities ahead of district council polls
- Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong’s district council candidacy still in limbo as Hong Kong government vetting officer abruptly replaced
This article Hong Kong opposition camp slams arrest of seven lawmakers, accusing government of trying to stir up chaos so they can cancel district council elections first appeared on South China Morning Post