Dozens of opponents of the government's development plan for the northeastern New Territories breached security cordons and stormed the legislative building in Admiralty yesterday.
It was the first such incident since the Tamar premises opened in 2011. Scuffles broke out and a security guard was sent to hospital after ending up on the floor amid the mayhem.
About 50 activists and affected residents made clear their objections to the government's HK$340 million funding request for engineering works as the Legislative Council's Finance Committee discussed the application for the fifth time.
Chan Ping said he feared losing his home. "Those of us who are old and without children are so worried every day that we cannot live properly," he said, coming close to tears.
The protesters also said they were unhappy that the government had applied for the funding before town planners had vetted the development plan.
Starting their rally at 3pm, they broke through the security lines and occupied the ground floor, chanting slogans and beating drums. The elderly among them held banners that read "Protect our homes".
The three groups that organised the action, including the Land Justice League and the Kwu Tung North development concern group, said their move was a "last resort" to force the government to scrap the plan. "The residents have tried all means, hoping the authorities will withdraw development in the northeastern New Territories … but the people in power were not moved," they said in a statement.
The Legco Secretariat initially said it had not taken the case to the police as "the protesters have not obstructed the meeting proceedings". It described the rally as "a peaceful expression of opinions". However it later emerged the police had been called.
To prevent protesters from nearing the committee meeting on the second floor, the secretariat closed the first-floor gates.
In the meantime, the Finance Committee spent much of yesterday's meeting arguing over committee chairman Ng Leung-sing's capacity and power to run the session.
Ng had tried to limit speaking time per legislator, prompting discontent among pan-democrats at the first session.
Accountancy-sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung said the committee chairman's power was different from that of the Legco president, who is empowered to set the timing of meetings under article 72 of the Basic Law.
But Ng cited clause 44 of Legco's rules of procedure, which states the Legco president and chairman of a committee shall be responsible for the observance of the rules of order in the council and committee respectively.
He ended the meeting at 9.45pm without a vote.