Hong Kong lawmakers to be arrested for Legco protest over controversial bill giving mainland Chinese police power of arrest at high-speed rail station
- Democratic Party duo Andrew Wan and Lam Cheuk-ting told to report to police station
- Pair were among five who disrupted debate on checkpoint arrangement for Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link
Two pan-democratic lawmakers face certain arrest over allegations of obstructing and injuring Legislative Council staff during a protest in June, in another blow to opposition forces.
Andrew Wan Siu-kin and Lam Cheuk-ting were told on Friday to report on Monday to police headquarters in Wan Chai, where they will be formally arrested.
The two Democratic Party members said they were accused of breaching section 19(b) of the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance by obstructing security guards in the legislature. Wan said he was also accused of common assault.
The pair were among five pan-democrats evicted from the Legco chamber on June 13, when a debate on the controversial joint checkpoint arrangements for the cross-border express rail link descended into chaos.
The debate started with the pro-democracy camp protesting against Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s decision to bar 11 lawmakers from speaking after their allotted time ended the previous week.
During their protest, the opposition politicians stood up, with some yelling the words “trash” and “shameful” at the president as they complained about procedural problems.
Leung instructed Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan to make his speech, as the pan-democrats continued shouting, forcing Chan to pick up a microphone to make his voice heard.
Wan and Lam were the first to be dragged out of the chamber by security guards, followed by Au Nok-hin and Democrats Ted Hui Chi-fung and Roy Kwong Chun-yu, who climbed on top of his desk during the protest.
Leung, and the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong’s Starry Lee Wai-king, who is deputy chairwoman of the Legco Commission, decided to call police after two security guards were said to have been injured.
The president later said the commission had established a new protocol in May to call the police if any Legco staff were obstructed or hurt while performing their duties.
The pan-democratic camp had been questioning the constitutionality of the so-called co-location arrangement for the local section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, under which officers from across the border can enforce mainland Chinese law in the port area at the West Kowloon station.
Opposition politicians are accusing the government of persecution after their ranks were decimated by the disqualification of members over improper oath-taking and political stances deemed to be separatist by authorities.
Flanked by other lawmakers on Friday afternoon, Lam and Wan said police had warned them that they might be charged.
“This is the first time in Legco history that lawmakers face criminal charges for peacefully protesting against the president’s unfair ruling,” Lam said.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung of the Business and Professionals Alliance (BPA), who was walking past the group at the moment, let out a loud laugh.
Should the charges lead to a conviction, Lam said, lawmakers would become less effective.
“Any protest inside the chamber, so long as it makes it hard for Legco staff to remove you, they will suppress you with criminal charges,” he said.
Wan said he was baffled by the additional charge of common assault, as he had not meant to hurt anyone, and would only learn more details after meeting police next week about the charge.
“[At the time] I had not been expelled by the president … the security guards first made a move on me,” Wan said, adding he had his arms twisted behind him.
Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said common assault covered minor scuffles, as well as conflict without bodily contact.
“Criminal action and criminal intent, you need both [for a conviction],” Luk said.
Depending on the situation, Luk said, a defendant might also claim to have acted in self-defence, but noted the claim would only be accepted in court if the retaliation was proportional to actions taken by the other party.
As a sitting lawmaker, Wan said, he should not have been obstructed by security guards, but he believed the powers and privilege ordinance would only protect lawmakers’ speech.
Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai said the pair would get full support, and a court ruling could potentially have an impact on peaceful protests inside the chamber.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said some legislators’ actions were intended to draw attention, rather than as a means of genuine protest.
Leung, also of the BPA, called for changes to Legco’s rule book to introduce tougher penalties for misconduct in the chamber.