Three pro-democracy lawmakers were ejected from Hong Kong’s legislative chamber Thursday morning, disrupting the 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 sign about a pro-Beijing lawmaker that read “Best Chairperson, Starry Lee.”
A second pro-democracy lawmaker was ejected for yelling after the meeting resumed, and then a third 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.
In Beijing, China’s national legislature was set to ratify a proposal later Thursday to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, a Chinese territory that is supposed to have a high degree of autonomy under a “one-country, two systems” framework.
The city’s pro-democracy opposition sees both the security legislation and the anthem law as assaults on that autonomy, and the U.S. has called on China to back off on the security law.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notifed Congress on Wednesday that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China, setting the stage for the possible withdrawal of the preferential trade and financial status the U.S. accords the former British colony.
Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, who rose to prominence as a student leader during 2014 pro-democracy demonstrations, applauded the U.S. announcement.
Sanctions or the freezing of Hong Kong’s special economic status would “let Beijing know it is a must to completely withdraw and stop the implementation of the national security law,” Wong said.
China blocked a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the legislation Wednesday, with China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun tweeting that Hong Kong is “purely China’s internal affairs.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said ahead of Pompeo’s announcement that China would take necessary steps to fight back against any “erroneous foreign interference in Hong Kong’s affairs.”
Chu, the ejected Hong Kong lawmaker, said the legislature’s president had objected to his placard calling Lee an “illegal chairperson” during Wednesday’s first day of debate, so he made a new one that called her the best chairperson instead.