By ZEN SOO, HONG KONG (AP):- Three pro-democracy lawmakers were ejected from Hong Kong’s legislative chamber Thursday morning, disrupting the start of a second day of debate on a contentious bill that would criminalize insulting or abusing the Chinese national anthem.
The legislature’s president, Andrew Leung, suspended the meeting minutes after it began and ejected Eddie Chu for holding up a sarcastic placard about a pro-Beijing lawmaker that read “Best Chairperson, Starry Lee.”
A second pro-democratic lawmaker was ejected for yelling after the meeting resumed, and then a third was ejected after rushing forward with a large plastic bottle in a cloth bag that spilled its brownish contents on the floor in front of the president’s raised dais.
“We have wanted to use any method to stop this national anthem law getting passed by this legislature, which is basically controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, because the law is just another way of putting pressure on Hong Kong people,” Chu said outside the chamber.
He said that Leung had objected to his placard during Wednesday’s first day of debate that called Lee an “illegal chairperson” and so he made a new one that called her the best chairperson instead.
Lee was recently elected chair of a key committee that sent the anthem bill to the full legislature for consideration. Her election, which the pro-democracy opposition contends was illegal, ended a monthslong filibuster that had prevented the committee from acting on the bill and other legislation.
Chu was carried out by security guards, even as fellow pro-democracy lawmakers protested his removal and tried to stop it.
After the meeting restarted, pro-democracy lawmaker,Ray Chan started yelling as Leung explained his decision to remove Chu, and the legislative president suspended the meeting again and ordered Chan ejected, too.
Other pro-democracy lawmakers surrounded Chan, who then hid under a table, as security officers tried to remove him. He eventually was carried out the officers.
A longer suspension followed the ejection of Ted Hui, who kicked the plastic bottle toward the president’s dais after security officers tussled with him and it fell from his hands.
Members left the chamber, security guards sprayed disinfectant and cleaning workers arrived to wipe the carpet. Then a group of firefighters in full protective gear entered and collected evidence. They appeared to take samples from the floor using swabs.
Hui later described the contents as a rotten plant, and said he wanted Leung to feel and smell the rotting of Hong Kong’s civilization and rule of law, and of the “one country, two systems” framework that democracy activists feel is under attack by China’s ruling Communist Party.
“I wanted him to taste it, unfortunately it (fell) on the ground because I was hit by security guards,” he said.
Hui rushed toward Leung as pro-democracy lawmakers were demanding that the legisature’s president explain which rules of procedure banned sarcastic placards, and then all held up or displayed the same “Best Chairperson, Starry Lee” sign.
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