The pro-establishment majority in Hong Kong’s legislature is pushing for rule changes to punish opposition lawmakers over disorderly conduct in future after they brought an abrupt end to a question and answer session with the city’s leader on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor left without taking any questions in the Legislative Council after three pan-democrats were expelled from the chamber over a noisy protest against what they said was a government campaign to shut opposition politicians out of elections.
Before the session began at 11am, 10 pro-democracy lawmakers, including Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, greeted the chief executive outside the chamber with a banner opposing “government control of elections”.
Chu, on Sunday, became the 10th person since 2016 to be disqualified from running in a poll over issues of allegiance.
The lawmaker was barred from contesting a rural representative election after the returning officer said Chu had “implicitly” maintained support for the possibility of Hong Kong breaking away from China.
“Political censorship. Shame!” the lawmakers chanted as Lam walked by. The pan-democrats followed Lam into the chamber, with a few continuing their chants.
Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen promptly ordered Chu, Claudia Mo Man-ching and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen – who were still shouting – to leave the chamber.
This sparked an outcry from the pro-democracy camp, with lawmakers arguing Leung had not given sufficient warning before expelling the trio. The pan-democrats flanked the lawmakers, who refused to leave.
After a 15-minute adjournment, the chaos resumed and Leung announced the meeting was over at 11.25am.
“It is so ridiculous. I had barely stepped into the chamber when Leung expelled us,” Mo said.
“They just want Legco to be a rubber stamp body and turn us into hand-raising machines.”
The pro-establishment camp criticised the pan-democrats for wasting a valuable chance to raise livelihood issues with the chief executive.
Lawmaker and executive councillor Wong Kwok-Kin, from the Federation of Trade Unions, said his party would propose new changes to Legco’s rules of procedure.
“Today’s chaos illustrates the need to further tighten our rule book,” Wong said, calling for penalties for lawmakers who disrupt meetings, as well as those who prevent security guards from ejecting rowdy legislators.
The Committee of Rules of Procedure has been discussing the new sanctions against lawmakers who are expelled by the president for “grossly disorderly manner”.
After the pan-democrats’ defeat in the Kowloon West by-election on November 25, the group is outnumbered in the geographical constituencies, as well as the functional side. It means any proposed changes raised by their rivals would be passed.
Chairman of the committee Paul Tse Wai-chun said the study by the secretariat was expected to finish by March, and they would further discuss the proposal, taking account of measures used in parliaments elsewhere.
“It is not a question of whether we would speed up the proceedings or postpone them,” he said.
Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest pro-establishment party, said they would respect the committee and explore all options when considering rule changes.
Speaking after the opening ceremony for the Hong Kong News-Expo later on Wednesday, Lam said it was unfortunate the question and answer session had been scrapped.
“I hope next time I attend the question and answer session it can be conducted more smoothly.”
Andrew Leung later brushed aside the pan-democrats’ criticism, saying he had followed the rule book and shouting in the chamber was not tolerated in any parliament.
“The session only lasts 30 minutes. Time is precious,” he said, when asked why he issued the order in such a short time.
Additional reporting by Sum Lok-kei