Hong Kong: Lawmakers carried out during parliament mayhem

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Media caption,

Lawmakers brawled in Hong Kong in May

A number of pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were dragged out of the chamber during a row about a Chinese national anthem bill.

The bill would criminalise disrespect of the anthem.

Legislators were arguing over the leadership of a key committee, which would affect the bill's progress.

One of the lawmakers carried out, Eddie Chu, told the BBC: "If Hong Kong was a democracy, we would not need to start scuffles like this."

He added: "Unfortunately we are forced into this situation. I can foresee more fights within the chamber and outside the chamber."

The chaotic scenes highlight the deep divisions in Hong Kong, which is a special administrative region of China.

Although last year's street protests died down during the pandemic, some demonstrations are expected to resume.

It's the second time in recent days there have been scuffles in the Legislative Council.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui tried to jump onto the chairman's bench

What happened in the chamber?

The Legislative Council was in dispute over who should run the house committee, which scrutinises bills and decides when they are voted on.

Last week, the council president appointed Chan Kin-por, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, to oversee the election of a new leader.

On Monday - before the Legislative Council began - Mr Chan was in the chairman's seat, surrounded by more than 20 security guards.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Chan Kin-por surrounded by guards

As pro-democracy lawmakers entered the room, they tried to reach the seat, but were stopped by the guards.

As the guards used blankets to corral the protesters, others pointed and yelled from their seats.

One lawmaker held a sign that said: "CCP [Chinese Communist Party] tramples HK legislature."

During the melee - which went on for several minutes - at least one person fell to the ground, apparently injured.

At one point, a lawmaker took a running jump to try to reach the chairman's bench, but was stopped in mid-air by guards.

After most of the pro-democracy lawmakers left - or were removed - the pro-Beijing Starry Lee was elected chairwoman of the house committee.

This, her opponents fear, will make it easier for the national anthem bill to be passed.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
A clerk counting ballots during the eventual vote

What is the dispute about?

Lam Cho Wai, BBC News Chinese, Hong Kong

China wants a controversial bill that would criminalise abuse of China's national anthem to get passed as soon as possible.

But the house committee - responsible for scrutinising controversial bills, including the national anthem one - has failed to select a chairperson for months.

The city will elect new lawmakers in September. Democrats want to delay the bills to next term.

Beijing has accused the pro-democracy camps of "malicious" filibustering, effectively paralyzing the legislature.

What happened inside the chamber is another sign that China continues to tighten its grip on Hong Kong.

It is very similar to what happened last year - when the pan-democrats failed to stop the controversial extradition bill in the LegCo, which sparked months of mass protests.

Some smaller-scale protests and clashes have come back to the city recently, and are expected to gain much more momentum after the pandemic.

But there has been no sign that China, or Hong Kong's leadership, will make any concession.

Is the Chinese anthem disrespected in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong has its own national football team, but not its own anthem - so the Chinese one is played before games.

In recent years, the anthem has been booed more frequently before matches, including before a game with Iran in September.

In 2017, China's parliament, the National People's Congress, extended a law on disrespecting the anthem to Hong Kong - but it has not yet been adopted there.

During the protests last year, a song called Glory to Hong Kong became an unofficial anthem of the protesters.

Media caption,

Why were Hong Kong fans booing their anthem? (2015 video)