Hong Kong’s pan-democracy camp slammed the city’s government following the arrest of seven opposition politicians on Nov. 1.
Police arrested them in connection with a May 8 scuffle, when pro-democracy and pro-Beijing lawmakers in the Legislative Council (LegCo), the city’s legislature, clashed over the appointment of the LegCo House committee chairperson. The committee vets bills and decides when to present them for a final vote.
Four of the arrested are current lawmakers: Wu Chi-wai, Andrew Wan, and Helena Wong of the Democratic Party, and Fernando Cheung of the Labour Party. The others are former lawmakers Ray Chan and Eddie Chu, and Labour Party chairman Steven Kwok. The latter previously served as a district councillor.
At a press conference on Nov. 1, the police said the arrests were for suspicion of committing two offenses under the LegCo’s Powers and Privileges Ordinance: “contempt” and “interference with members in the Legislative Council.”
The LegCo pro-democracy camp said in a statement, “We strongly condemn the totalitarian and indiscriminate arrests of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, to suppress the rights of legislators and citizens to protest.” They also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of those who were arrested.
Chaos ensued in May as pro-Beijing and pro-democracy lawmakers fought over who was the rightful leader of the committee. The latter had sought to delay a vote for the post, leading to a backlog of legislation that the camp feels will continue to increase Beijing’s control over the territory.
The pro-Beijing camp’s efforts to install one of their own to the position sparked a scuffle. Several pro-democracy lawmakers were dragged out by security guards. Wan, who was injured when he fell amid the scuffle, had to be carried out by paramedics.
The seven politicians, who were released on bail in late afternoon on Nov. 1, are due to appear in court on Nov. 5. Police said more arrests could be made in connection with the May 8 incident.
If found guilty, each of the two charges carries a maximum fine of HKD$10,000 ($1,290) and 12-months in prison, according to the ordinance.
Wu said at a press conference held by several pro-democracy lawmakers that police brought groundless charges” against them, and the move was aimed at frightening pan-democracy lawmakers, so they would be more careful in the choice of their words.
Wan questioned why the police pointed their fingers at pro-democracy lawmakers but not at politicians from the other side. He said the police should also hold pro-Beijing lawmakers accountable for contempt of the legislature.
Chan shared on his Twitter feed some footage from the May 8 incident captured by local media RTHK, in which pro-Beijing lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung is seen dragging him to the floor.
Cheung questioned why the police came to arrest him at his home at 7 a.m. with a search warrant, as what happened at LegCo that day was public for all to see.
A previous version of this article misrepresented the number of current or former lawmakers who were arrested. One of them, Steven Kwok, has never served as a lawmaker. The Epoch Times regrets the error.