Hong Kong, November 01 (ANI): In a fresh crackdown against anti-establishment leaders, Hong Kong Police on Sunday detained seven opposition activists, including four lawmakers, over a chaotic meeting in May that descended into shouting and scuffles.
The pan-democratic camp condemned the arrests as "selective" and politically motivated, as no pro-establishment lawmakers were arrested, even though some had been involved in physical clashes during the meeting in question.
Pro-establishment legislators, however, said police had done their job in accordance with the law, South China Morning Post reported.
At an afternoon press conference, police superintendent Chan Wing-yu also revealed the force was awaiting further legal advice from the Department of Justice that could potentially lead to more arrests.
"Law enforcement action was taken in accordance with the law and evidence gathered during the investigation ... It's not about their social status or political background," he said.
The seven are accused of disrupting Legco's House Committee meeting on May 8. The meeting descended into chaos as 11 opposition lawmakers were thrown out by pro-establishment leader Starry Lee Wai-king, who took control of the committee to begin clearing a backlog of bills for review, a surprise move pan-democrats criticised as an abuse of power.
She was later re-elected chairwoman of the committee.
Those charged are Democratic Party lawmakers Wu Chi-wai, Helena Wong Pik-wan and Andrew Wan Siu-kin; Labour Party chairman Kwok Wing-kin; lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung; and former lawmakers Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen.
Chan, the police superintendent, said all seven had been charged under the Legco (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance.
"As the Legco meeting was about to start on May 8, some lawmakers engaged in disruptive acts, such as running towards security guards standing in front of the chairman's podium," he said.
"Police received the Legco secretariat's report ... After investigations and seeking legal advice from the justice department, we made the arrests today."
The suspects, aged 33 to 63, were released on bail, but must show up at the Eastern Magistrates' Courts for trial on Thursday.
Under the Legco ordinance, anyone who creates or joins in a disturbance likely to interrupt the proceedings of the council or a committee faces a potential fine of US$1,290 and imprisonment of up to 12 months.
In a joint statement, pan-democrat lawmakers strongly condemned the Hong Kong government for "arbitrary arrests and suppression of lawmakers and the people's rights of resistance".
"The Legco ordinance was originally intended to protect lawmakers. It is ridiculous that it is now being misused by the authoritarian government as a legal weapon of oppression ... We demand the unconditional and immediate release of all democrats."
In the camp's press conference in the evening, Wan said it was absurd that officers had to search his home and take him away early in the morning.
"The parties that showed the most contempt towards Legco were the loyalists and the government," he said. "Many pro-establishment colleagues broke the law during the meeting ... I was injured, police said they would investigate, but now I'm arrested - the plaintiff has become the defendant." (ANI)