There was more drama at the legislature on Tuesday morning as both democrats and pro-Beijing politicians sought to hold a meeting to vet a controversial extradition bill.
Pan-democrats took their seats early to ensure their temporary chairperson James To was in place. When the pro-Beijing camp arrived at 8.30am, their nominated temporary chair lawmaker Abraham Shek was prevented from taking over as democrats and journalists surrounded him. Democrats Claudia Mo appeared to stumble in the ensuing furore.
After the meeting, To told reporters that current circumstances leave no room for political reconciliation between members of the pro-establishment and pro-democracy camp. “We want to have a political meeting and a political reconciliation between parties and the government,” he said. “There’s no hurry at all. We must have political reconciliation. I hope what I’ve said can reach the ears of the Chief Executive, our government officials, and those responsible for the Hong Kong affairs in the Central People’s Government.”
Hong Kong’s government proposed amending rendition laws in February to allow the city to handle extradition requests, on a case-by-case basis, from jurisdictions where there are no prior agreements – most notably China and Taiwan. The new system would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without oversight from the legislature.
Lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses have raised concerns about how the law may put residents at risk of being extradited to mainland China. Around 130,000 people took to the streets last month to protest the proposed amendments, according to rally organisers.
Both political camps have been trying to lead the bill meetings owing to a split over the legitimacy of the temporary chairperson. Saturday’s committee session descended into a physical ruck as the rival camps tussled over control of the microphone. Several lawmakers said they were hurt in the scuffle, including Gary Fan of the Neo-Democrats, who was carried out in a stretcher, and his pro-Beijing rival Chan Han-pan, who emerged later with his arm in a sling.
Lawmakers from both sides have said they will file separate complaints to the police, with Fan alleging assault and pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho accusing James To, who pro-democrats consider to be the legitimate chairperson, of falsifying LegCo documents.
Over the holiday weekend, LegCo staff locked doors to the conference room with chains and bolts to prevent break-ins, pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said on Monday.
Just now: To applause from protesters at the rear of the legislature, lawmaker Claudia Mo urges #HongKong leader Carrie Lam to drop her "psychological block" on meeting democrats & suspend the China extradition law plan. pic.twitter.com/dtEmwBqiQf
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) May 14, 2019
Mo told reporters afterwards that the outcome was a small victory for the pro-democracy camp ahead of a larger war: “… we certainly still have a big war to fight on,” she said.
She added that pan-democrats would be opposed to either tabling the bill directly to the full Legislative Council or forming a dedicated task force to continue examining the bill.
Additional reporting: Jennifer Creery.
The Hong Kong Free Press #PressForFreedom 2019 Funding Drive seeks to raise HK$1.2m to support our non-profit newsroom and dedicated team of multi-media, multi-lingual reporters. HKFP is backed by readers, run by journalists and is immune to political and commercial pressure. This year’s critical fundraiser will provide us with the essential funds to continue our work into next year.