From political farce to pure pantomime. Beijing loyalists yesterday spoiled the goodbyes of five pan-democrats who have quit Legco - by walking out to stop them giving speeches justifying their actions. If the five want to deliver their speeches so they form part of the official record of Legislative Council proceedings, they will have to put off resigning until next week. That will mean amending the letters of resignation they submitted on Tuesday stating their resignations take effect tomorrow. The five quit to trigger by-elections - one in each of the geographical constituencies - an exercise they see as a de facto referendum on the pace and scope of democratisation. The walkout meant there were too few lawmakers in the chamber for the sitting to continue. Government supporters used the same tactic five years ago to stop tributes being paid to late Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang following his death. Pan-democrats condemned yesterday's move as a gag on freedom of speech. Legco President Tsang Yok-sing had approved the 15-minute speeches the five - Tanya Chan and Alan Leong Kah-kit of the Civic Party, and Wong Yuk-man, Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Chan Wai-yip of the League of Social Democrats - intended to give. But when their turn to speak came at 1.15pm, Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, rose to object. 'To show our dissatisfaction with the five lawmakers' resignations and their calling of a so-called referendum they have labelled an uprising, and their use of Legco as a platform for publicity, we will walk out in protest,' Tam said. Members of the DAB, Federation of Trade Unions, Economic Synergy and several independent lawmakers then walked out of the chamber in unison. Before leaving, unionist Wong Kwok-hing shouted: 'Shame on those pushing for Hong Kong independence through a referendum.' Chan Kam-lam of the DAB was the only member of his party left in the chamber; he had rung the bell to call for a headcount in order to check if there was a quorum of members - the minimum number needed for Legco proceedings. Miriam Lau Kin-yee, chairwoman of the Liberal Party, also remained while Paul Chan Mo-po, representing the accountancy sector, soon returned. But with only 21 pan-democrat lawmakers and four government allies remaining in the chamber - short of the 30 required - Tsang suspended the meeting until next Wednesday. The five had intended their farewell speeches to be a prelude to a rally of supporters outside the Legco building last night. In a show of unity, all 23 pan-democrats held a news conference to condemn their opponents' action as an assault on the integrity and the spirit of the legislature and open democracy. 'This is a place where we should unite in diversity ... their deliberate act is damaging to the integrity of the legislature,' said Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Democratic Party, which has opted out of the resignation exercise. In a statement, former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang condemned what she called orchestrated sabotage of the council's meeting. Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said the incident had shown the true colours of the government allies. Backed by the vested interests represented in the functional constituencies, with their narrow, trade-based electorates, they had shown they were willing to deprive of their rights lawmakers who had been directly elected by the general population, she said. One politician close to Beijing lamented the walkout and said it had provided ammunition for the pan-democrats. Tsang said it was not the first time a Legco meeting had had to be aborted because of a walkout. He said it was up to the public to judge whether yesterday's events had affected Legco's image.