Hong Kong opposition lawmaker Ted Hui snatches woman’s phone and dashes into men’s toilet – but later apologises
Police report made against Democratic Party lawmaker as top government officials slammed ‘violent’ and ‘barbaric’ actions
An opposition lawmaker known for his exaggerated responses to hot button issues on Wednesday apologised to a civil servant for snatching her mobile phone and running into the men’s toilet, as his political party said it would fully investigate his “unacceptable” behaviour.
Ted Hui Chi-fung of the Democratic Party said: “I grabbed the phone of a government official without her consent yesterday. I admit that is not appropriate and I sincerely apologise to her.”
He admitted taking the Security Bureau employee’s phone to a Legislative Council complex toilet on Tuesday.
He stayed there for 10 minutes before emerging and handing the device to another government official.
The Security Bureau made a police report against Hui and top government officials criticised his actions as “violent” and “barbaric”.
Seven policemen turned up at the Legco complex on Wednesday night to photograph the area where the incident happened, including the corridor outside the meeting room and the toilet.
They also went into the security office, presumably to view CCTV footage.
The female civil servant had been contacting lawmakers to ensure a sufficient number of pro-establishment ones would turn up to form a quorum for a bills committee meeting.
The committee has been debating a controversial government bill on stationing mainland Chinese officers in the city at a joint checkpoint for the HK$84.4 billion (US$10.8 billion) cross-border high-speed rail link.
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Hui said he snatched the phone as the woman was “recording the entry and exit time of lawmakers” including himself into the meeting room and Legco complex. He said he suspected the government had breached the privacy ordinance.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung on Wednesday shot back and said it was normal practice for civil servants to observe the “movement” of lawmakers. The Privacy Commissioner and Legco Commission – which handles administrative matters for the council – approved of this, he said.
“We are not talking about personal secrecy or personal privacy. We are talking about observations of the movement of individual members, like whether they are at Legco to vote.”
Privacy Commissioner Stephen Wong Kai-yi agreed, saying that the government had a “legitimate purpose” to collect information on lawmakers if it had to do with them voting on a bill.
Cheung added: “The government is highly concerned about the incident. Such a violent act is unacceptable and we condemn it.”
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a member of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s cabinet, told journalists: “The member of staff felt so harassed that she cried.”
Ip was at Legco on Tuesday but did not witness the incident. She chairs the bills committee studying the proposed law to allow mainland Chinese police and customs staff to handle immigration for travellers in both directions in one section of the West Kowloon terminus.
The bill was drafted by the Security Bureau and it is common for government departments to dispatch officers to Legco to coordinate support for their efforts.
Security minister John Lee Ka-chiu stated Hui’s “barbaric” behaviour was “intolerable”. He said no one from the bureau would be involved in the police investigation to ensure it was “fair and just”.
Ip, a former security minister, described Hui’s actions as “serious misconduct”. The pro-establishment camp on Wednesday echoed Ip, and made clear they would not let the incident pass easily.
A special meeting of the Legco Commission will be held on Thursday morning to discuss the matter upon member Alice Mak Mei-kuen’s request, while the camp demanded Legco’s House Committee – which coordinates and monitors Legco business – discuss the incident next Friday.
The camp’s convenor, Martin Liao Cheung-kong, said: “If I were [Hui], I would resign ... I do not consider that a sincere apology.”
Hui, 36, who trained as a lawyer and won the Hong Kong Island seat in the 2016 Legco election, is especially vocal on heritage, education and environmental issues.
He has been disruptive in the Legco chamber on several occasions. Last year, he was kicked out for protesting during a debate on the joint rail checkpoint. At another debate, he locked a personal attack alarm – usually used by women as a form of self-protection – in a drawer.
On Wednesday, Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, who stood next to Hui as he delivered his apology, said the younger man’s actions were “unacceptable”.
“The party has demanded Hui fully explain the incident … the disciplinary panel will investigate it fairly.”