Bad call by Hong Kong lawmaker the latest blow for Legislative Council
Ted Hui Chi-fung may regret grabbing the phone of a woman he feared had been monitoring legislators, but his actions merely reflect the confrontation that has taken root in parliamentary culture
Democrat legislator Ted Hui Chi-fung must have deeply regretted the injudicious behaviour that has cost the party and his political career dearly.
The unanimous condemnation from across the political spectrum makes it plain that he has crossed the line by confronting a female civil servant at the Legislative Council, snatching her mobile phone and examining its contents inside the men’s toilet.
The 36-year-old initially defended his actions as an attempt to expose what he described as a grave intrusion of lawmakers’ privacy, taking issue with the government practice of monitoring members’ whereabouts to ensure there are sufficient votes for key funding and legislative proposals.
But Hui and his party soon apologised, knowing that his actions could hardly be justified.
Elected for the first time 19 months ago, the law graduate risks facing a raft of criminal charges, such as robbery, assault, and obstructing a public officer lawfully engaged in their duties.
The full extent of the legal and political liabilities is still brewing. Calls for him to step down have been heard, including from senior party figures. A motion by the rival establishment camp to unseat him from the Hong Kong Island constituency is also under way.
The phone-snatching saga is as much a test for Hui as for the Democrats. The party has set the right tone by suspending his membership and launching disciplinary action.
The pan-democrats have been vocal critics of misconduct in public office, and whether the party is fair-handed in dealing with its own bad apples will be closely watched.
From hurling objects across the chamber to grabbing officials’ documents in open meetings, the unruly behaviour of individual lawmakers has long been an issue of public concern.
Hui was also known for his disruptive antics. He once locked a beeping security alarm in a drawer to disrupt a council meeting, and was kicked out for protesting during a debate on the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement at the cross-border high-speed rail terminus.
All these may be isolated cases. But confrontation and rowdiness have sadly taken root in our parliamentary culture. They do nothing for the rational and quality political discourse expected of elected legislators.