Two pro-government grandees have defended Beijing against accusations that it meddled in Hong Kong’s internal affairs when it attacked opposition legislators’ filibustering . Executive Council member Ronny Tong Ka-wah and Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said on Tuesday the central government had the right to speak up and had not interfered in city business. On Monday, the central government’s liaison office in the city and the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) blamed pan-democrats’ delaying tactics for a legislative backlog at the House Committee, where bills go for scrutiny before final votes. In strongly worded statements, they accused the legislators of betraying their oaths of office and possibly committing criminal misconduct. Pan-democrats said the offices’ missives were in breach of “one country, two systems”, the principle under which Beijing promises Hong Kong a measure of autonomy, in areas except defence and diplomacy. Hong Kong at ‘critical point in terms of national security’ Speaking on a radio programme on Tuesday, Tong, a top adviser to the city government, said Beijing’s remarks did not amount to interference as they did not affect policy. “These may be extraordinary reactions to an extraordinary time,” he said, adding that foreign countries and figures, such as the United States and Chris Patten, the city’s last colonial governor, frequently commented on the city’s affairs. But he implied the comments might have been ill-judged, noting that they came at a “sensitive time”. “The HKMAO and the liaison office are key central government organs, their comments might be easily seized upon by opponents of one country, two systems as a smoking gun of interference,” he said. “The fewer situations that might complicate and politicise matters the better.” Tam echoed Tong’s remarks and said the two bodies had the “responsibility to speak out” as they were “in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs”. He went further and suggested disruptive lawmakers should be booted from the legislature if there was evidence of them not fulfilling their duties, adding that the Legco rules of procedure might have to be amended to stop filibustering. He also warned the episode might be a sign of things to come if pan-democrats did well in the upcoming Legco election. “If [the opposition] wins half of the seats, the legislature would be over,” he said. Both men said the decision on whether to prosecute legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok and others for misconduct in public office – as suggested by the mainland authorities – rested with the Department of Justice. Kwok, who spoke later on the same radio programme, said the mainland government should present “very clear evidence” if it accused him and his colleagues of a crime, and said the pan-democratic lawmakers only acted to “reflect public opinion” to stop bills such as the national anthem law, and did not block key items such as the government’s relief package for the Covid-19 pandemic and other infection control measures. The pro-democracy camp held a press conference on Tuesday morning blasting the interference of Beijing, which Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai said was a blatant trampling on one country, two systems. The camp’s convenor Tanya Chan, of the Civic Party, said it would not change the way it participated in House Committee meetings, despite Beijing’s warnings. “It is always the plan, or someone’s intention, to remove and disqualify those who are being elected … by bringing some motions in Legco or even to arrest, charge and sentence certain legislators,” Chan said. “What we are doing has complied with Hong Kong laws as well as the Basic Law. I can’t see that’s a possible way that we are not doing to act in the same direction.” Similarly, Jeremy Tam Man-ho, also of the Civic Party, said he believed Beijing was trying to pave way for opposition lawmakers’ disqualifications. Speaking separately on Tuesday, Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said it was not his role to judge whether Kwok had abused his power, and he would act according to the rules and the Basic Law. Both camps are gearing up for the Legco election in September, with the city still battered by the effects of the pandemic and anti-government unrest sparked last June, and coming after pan-democrats’ landslide win in November’s local council elections. In their statements issued on Monday, the HKMAO and the liaison office noted the Legco House Committee’s failure to elect a chairman since last October, condemning pan-democrats for delaying work involving economic and livelihood issues. “One can’t help thinking their behaviour amounts to a breach of the [Legislative Council] oath, and constitutes an offence of misconduct in public office,” the HKMAO’s statement read. The liaison office claimed 14 bills and more than 80 subsidiary pieces of legislation had been held up because of the House Committee’s lack of a leader. Kwok, who for procedural reasons has presided over the committee’s meetings since the beginning of the legislative year in October, was among those singled out in Monday’s statements for allegedly abusing his power by allowing the delays. Twenty-one opposition lawmakers rallied to Kwok’s defence late on Monday, saying the election of a Legco committee chair was an internal issue for the city, and urging the central authorities to respect one country, two systems.