Legco vote on new-towns funding postponed again as protesters rally at Tamar
Joyce Ng, Ada Lee and Samuel Chan
A vote on preliminary funding for two controversial northeast New Territories new towns was put on hold last night after a meeting of Legco's Finance Committee was thrown into chaos as hundreds protested outside the Legislative Council complex at Tamar.
The meeting was a continuation of the one a week earlier that ended in mayhem with protesters attempting to storm the Legco building to stop lawmakers voting on the HK$340 million in funding for the new towns in Fanling and Kwu Tung.
Watch: Protestors rally outside of Legco during new-towns funding proposal
The chairman of the Finance Committee, Ng Leung-sing, faced heated criticism during the four-hour meeting yesterday, including accusations that he ignored rules and procedures. New People's Party lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee even suggested he step aside when the meeting resumes next week.
"There are 2,000 people outside. The displeasure last week was largely caused by your recklessness," Democrat Sin Chung-kai, speaking on a motion to adjourn, said in reference to last week's chaos when protesters clashed with police. Pan-democrats asked for the meeting to be adjourned so government officials could meet affected villagers again to resolve the matter peacefully.
Calm was restored when Ng's motion was voted down 24-26. Ip and Michael Tien Puk-sun, also of the New People's Party, were among those who voted against.
"Mr Ng has made the meeting very chaotic," Ip said, and suggested the committee's vice-chairwoman, Emily Lau Wing-hing, chair the next meeting.
Ng did not take questions from the media after the meeting but told Cable TV he felt he had a duty to continue as chairman. However, he said if "it was better for the issue" he would consider stepping aside. The committee has three remaining sessions before the summer break.
In a blog post yesterday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying urged lawmakers and all citizens to spread the spirit of "all for one, one for all" and build the new towns to solve the city's housing shortage.
The protesters, banned from the Legislative Council complex, moved to the square outside the adjacent government headquarters. Between 800 and 1,000 police officers were deployed and barricades erected.
The protesters grew more angry as pro-government groups rallied on the opposite side of the road and played the national anthem.
Police arrested two students aged 13 and 14 for possessing weapons including two 20cm knives, a combat knife, around 10 cutter blades, an iron hammer, a torch lighter and two wire cutters.
Chief Inspector Chen Chi-cheong said the police were investigating the background of the teenagers and why they appeared at the protest with weapons. The boys were in custody and no charges had been laid as of last night.
A 75-year-old protester was arrested for slapping an officer.
A total of 26 people have been arrested over last week's protest.