The secretariat of Hong Kong’s legislature has filed a police report against an opposition lawmaker accused of snatching votes from a ballot box during Thursday’s election of a committee chairman.
The incident involving Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung happened during the first of nine sessions scheduled for the day, which saw the opposition bloc again fall back on delaying tactics, this time to stall voting for various Legislative Council panel chairmanships.
A day after using a series of quorum calls to drag out a Legco meeting, the opposition – whose relationship with authorities hit a new low after last year’s anti-government unrest – introduced multiple nominations for each chair, stretching an activity scheduled for just 10 minutes into the full length of each half-hour session.
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At the meeting of Legco’s development panel, Hui was accused by pro-establishment lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen – tasked with overseeing the poll – of snatching three votes from the ballot box.
Martin Liao Cheung-kong, convenor of the pro-establishment bloc, then weighed in: “[With the ongoing] contraventions in the conference room, if there is further chaos, it means the meeting cannot continue, I urge you to instruct the Secretariat to call the police.”
It was not immediately clear if anyone else had witnessed the alleged ballot theft, and Hui has yet to address the claim.
In a statement later, the Secretariat said Tse had agreed with the call to report Hui to police, adding Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen had been informed of the development and supported the move.
In response, Hui accused the pro-establishment lawmakers presiding over Thursday’s elections of abusing their powers by restricting the opposition’s nominating and speaking rights.
Some lawmakers presiding over the meetings had set time limits for nominations. It was Tse’s setting of such a cap that prompted Hui to get out of his seat in protest during the session.
Hui argued that what he termed abuse of power by pro-establishment lawmakers would be in greater evidence when more controversial issues are scrutinised in the future, including a plan to allow Hongkongers living on the mainland to vote in the city’s elections.
“I want to show the public, the pro-establishment camp and the government that the pro-democracy bloc will try its best to resist,” Hui said.
Meanwhile, in a move anticipating the delaying tactics, 40 pro-establishment legislators on Thursday wrote to the Legco’s secretary general in advance, formally declaring they would not accept nominations for leadership positions on some panels, effectively shrinking the pool of names their opposition counterparts could submit.
Panel chairmen are responsible for setting the agenda and calling meetings to debate policy issues.
Despite the drama, by close of day, eight of nine panels had an elected chairman, with the lone exception being the panel on information technology and broadcasting, for which lawmakers failed to get past the nomination process within the allotted 30 minutes.
Only the health panel had sufficient time to elect a deputy.
All eight of the chairmanships decided on Thursday were taken by the pro-establishment bloc, which holds a significant voting majority.
It was understood the government-friendly camp planned to grab the chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of all nine panels for the special one-year term, which was extended by Beijing after the local government decided to postpone the September polls for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The remaining chairmanship polls will be held on Friday.
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