HONG KONG, Nov 18, 2020 (AFP) – Three former lawmakers from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition were arrested Wednesday for protests held earlier this year in the city’s legislature as it passed a law criminalizing insults to China’s national anthem.
Ted Hui, Ray Chan and Eddie Chu posted news of their arrests on social media.
Police confirmed the three men were arrested for “contempt” and for “administering a noxious substance with intent to injure, aggrieve, or annoy”.
The latter charge refers to the trio throwing a rotten plant and a foul-smelling fertiliser in the chamber as a way to disrupt two debating sessions on the anthem law, which was ultimately passed.
Hong Kong’s legislature is only partially elected by popular vote and is designed to always maintain a pro-Beijing majority.
It has a long history of feisty and disruptive clashes between rival political camps.
Last week, it became even more of a rubber-stamp chamber after Beijing allowed local authorities to oust four opposition members, prompting the rest of their colleagues to resign en masse.
The inability of Hong Kongers to elect their leaders has been at the heart of swelling opposition to Beijing’s rule in recent years.
The finance hub was convulsed by seven straight months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests last year.
In response, Beijing has cracked down on its opponents and imposed a sweeping national security law on the city.
China says it has restored stability but opponents say Beijing has delivered a hammer blow to the semi-autonomous city’s freedoms and autonomy.
Many of the democracy movement’s prominent leaders — including former lawmakers — face a growing list of prosecutions and trials.
Earlier this month, police arrested seven former lawmakers — all from the pro-democracy opposition — for another round of protests inside the legislature.
Chan and Chu were among those arrested in that earlier operation.
Beijing has warned that any legislature protests in future constitute an offence under the national security law, which carries sentences ranging from 10 years to life in jail.
In September, elections for the legislature were postponed for a year, with authorities blaming the coronavirus.
The pro-democracy opposition had been hoping to do well, riding a wave of popular discontent after last year’s protests. su/jta/jfx/jah Agence France-Presse