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Hong Kong legislature erupts into fisticuffs

Hong Kong legislature erupts into fisticuffs”

Pro democracy and pro Beijing lawmakers scuffle at the House Committee's election of chairpersons at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on May 18, 2020.

Dennis Kwok, a lawmaker with the pro-democracy Civic Party, had chaired the House Committee until he was stripped of his responsibilities last week by LegCo President Andrew Leung, following a controversial intervention by Beijing's representatives in Hong Kong, who accused Kwok of "filibustering" and hinted at moving to have him expelled from the body. The Democrats chanted "foul play" and held a placard reading "CCP [China Communist Party] tramples HK legislature".

One lawmaker threw torn-up pages of the legislature's rulebook at members of the opposition, while another shouted, "It's an illegal meeting".

It was the second time in 10 days that have legislators pushed and shoved each other over the procedures of electing a chairperson.

The committee has been without a leader since October, meaning no bills have made it to the legislature for a vote, including one that criminalizes ridiculing or altering the national anthem.

Also Monday, 15 pro-democracy figures, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai, appeared in court to face charges relating to months of anti-government protests previous year sparked by an extradition bill that has since been withdrawn.

The backlog includes the China national anthem bill, which is expected to be given a second reading on May 27 despite the procedural chaos.

Protesters have been calling on social media for city-wide demonstrations on that day.

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The bill sparked often-violent protests in Hong Kong and was later scrapped.

Mr Liao acknowledged the bill could spark social unrest.

Veteran politicians, a publishing tycoon and senior lawyers were among those arrested last month in the biggest crackdown on the movement's key figures since the protests began. Beijing is growing increasingly assertive over its role in Hong Kong, looking to tighten its supervision over politics ahead of elections for the city's Legislative Council in September.

Hong Kong's government said the police were following the law while Beijing has praised the prosecutions.

"Any decision impinging on Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms as guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law would inevitably impact our assessment of One Country, Two Systems and the status of the territory."

China's leaders have dismissed popular anger in Hong Kong and instead portrayed last year's protests as a foreign-sponsored plot to destabilise the motherland.

The "one country, two systems" deal formed the basis of the territory's special status under USA law, which has helped it thrive as a world financial centre.



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