The Democratic Party has accused police of siding with Beijing loyalists after officers removed one of its councillors from a meeting of a working group.
The row began on Thursday when Central and Western District councillor Ted Hui Chi-fung was ordered out following a vote by councillors, who complained that his party colleague was filming it. Three journalists were also asked to leave. At least four police officers removed Hui when he refused to leave.
Hui, a working group member, said he tried to record the meeting to "increase transparency" amid concerns Beijing loyalists were directing public money to a pro-establishment group.
"That is definitely an infringement of human rights," Hui said of his expulsion. "Meetings of different working groups have all along allowed the public and journalists to observe. Not a single one has been rejected. It has set a very bad precedent and is a further attack on press freedom."
The working group - which is not an official council committee - had attracted interest because it was to discuss the allocation of HK$250,000 for the promotion of the Basic Law. The Hong Kong Island Federation, a Beijing-loyalist group, was said to be bidding for HK$150,000 to use for a writing competition and lunches.
"Did the pro-establishment camp find it too embarrassing to let the public know how they use taxpayers' money to buy popular support?" Hui asked.
But group chairman Sidney Lee Chi-hang said the meeting was not held behind closed doors; councillors expelled Hui and party colleague Ng Siu-hong because they were uncomfortable being filmed.
"Journalists are allowed to do their job, but these two kept filming other members, which provoked them," Lee said.
"The group finally passed a motion unanimously to ask all of them to leave, but Hui and his partners rejected it. To make sure the meeting could go on … I had no choice but to eject them." He said another group member, Ng Wing-yan, called in police.
The Civil Human Rights Front accused the working group of an "abuse of power" and urged the police watchdog to investigate.
A police spokesman said officers were called when two people refused to leave the meeting despite requests from security, and one had argued with a guard. Hui was removed to ensure the safety of others, the spokesman said.