Scuffles broke out at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on Friday as members of opposing camps competed to preside over a meeting to determine who has authority over a key committee which scrutinises bills.
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing and pro-democracy politicians have been caught in an impasse over the delayed election of a chairman of the Legislative Council’s House Committee, which reads bills and determines when they can be put to a final vote.
Pro-Beijing members have accused House Committee deputy chairman and pro-democracy member Dennis Kwok of stalling the process for over six months, resulting in a backlog of legislation including a controversial new bill that would criminalise abuse of the Chinese national anthem in the semi-autonomous city.
On Friday, pro-Beijing member Starry Lee, who said she has authority as previous chair of the House Committee to preside over the meeting, rushed to take the chairman’s seat more than an hour before the meeting was to start.
Security staff and other pro-Beijing lawmakers surrounded the bench, preventing pro-democracy members from approaching as arguments broke out, with each camp holding up placards condemning either Ms Lee or Mr Kwok.
Scuffles also broke out when Ms Lee called the meeting to order, with pro-democracy lawmakers rushing the bench as security guards shoved back.
The guards carried out several pro-democracy members, including Eddie Chu and Ray Chan, who were ordered to leave due to disorderly conduct.
“I have not seized power, I am the incumbent chairperson of the house committee,” said Ms Lee, who said she hoped the meeting could be conducted smoothly and urged lawmakers to take their seats.
Pro-democracy lawmakers chanted “Starry Lee, step down,” while pro-Beijing lawmakers countered with shouts that Mr Kwok was abusing his power.
Most of the pro-democracy lawmakers later walked out of the meeting.
The session was later briefly suspended after pro-democracy politician Kwok Wing-kin, who was watching from the viewing chamber, was dragged away by security after throwing a stack of papers down into the meeting room.