Chaos breaks out at district council meeting over Agnes Chow’s disqualification from March 11 by-election
Pro-democracy activists and district councillors were trying to question the government official who banned the 21-year-old’s candidacy
Chaos broke out when pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Agnes Chow Ting, together with 10 district councillors, tried to attend a meeting on Tuesday to get answers on why Chow was banned from contesting the upcoming Legislative Council by-election.
They were attempting to speak to Anne Teng, the government official in charge of overseeing the March 11 polls who ruled last week that Chow was ineligible as a candidate.
Teng was supposed to attend the Eastern District Council meeting in Sai Wan Ho as a government representative, wearing her other hat as head of the Eastern District office.
The city’s 18 District Councils scrutinise government funding and coordinate community initiatives, with councillors elected by the public.
In the Eastern District Council, pro-establishment politicians hold 25 of 35 seats, with the rest belonging to pro-democracy members.
The 10 councillors wanted to raise a motion to discuss the disqualification ruling while about 10 activists, including Chow and Wong, planned to observe the meeting from the public seating area.
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But Teng did not show up, leading Wong to criticise her for being absent so she could “dodge and ignore” the questions.
Teng on Saturday said Chow’s candidacy was invalid on the grounds that her party, Demosisto, had called for the city’s “self-determination”, rendering her ineligible under rules to curb independence advocacy.
When the councillors and activists arrived at 2.20pm, 10 minutes before the meeting was expected to start, they found four tall men dressed in black but not wearing uniforms blocking their way.
The men did not reveal their identities, and only one of them confirmed to the press that they were guards when the crowd dispersed after 4pm.
“Let us in! We are here to attend the meeting,” the pan-democrats and activists chanted, as the guards stood firm. As chaos broke out with the activists and reporters trying to squeeze in the meeting room, some policemen in uniform appeared with one holding a camera recording the scene.
Eastern District council chairman Wong Kin-pan announced at 2.45pm that the meeting was adjourned according to the rule book, as the quorum was not reached within 15 minutes of the start of the session.
“Our quorum requirement is 17 people but the secretariat told me there were only 15 members in the meeting room,” Wong Kin-pan said, ignoring a question on whether the councillors had arranged for guards and called for police to step in.
He said those who wanted to observe the meeting had to register their names and identity cards beforehand, which is why some activists were barred from entering the room, including those who used passes given to them by colleagues who had registered earlier.
His decision sparked an outcry from the pan-democrats, who said the adjournment was ridiculous as they were steps outside the meeting room and had faced difficulties entering it.
“I haven’t seen such a scene in my 30 years in the district council. The spirit of openness and engagement with the public were undermined by the pro-establishment camp,” Civic Party Joseph Lai Chi-keong lamented, saying he almost fainted in the chaos.
Andrew Chiu Ka-yin of the Democratic Party said the chairman had to be accountable for the security arrangement and chaos, and councillors would raise the urgent motion in the next meeting to press Teng for answers.
Agnes Chow also urged Teng to explain herself, and say why she did not quiz her on her political stance before issuing the ruling.
“Please don’t dodge but face the public,” Chow said, adding that Demosisto would hold another protest on Thursday when Teng briefed all candidates taking part in the March 11 by-election.
On Tuesday night, Teng issued an statement saying she would not comment on the ruling as a legal challenge against the decision had been lodged.