Pro-China and democratic lawmakers scuffle in Hong Kong legislature
UNTV News • May 8, 2020 • 97
Rival lawmakers scuffled in Hong Kong’s legislature on Friday (May 8) in a row over electing the chairman of a key committee, a fresh sign of rising political tension as the coronavirus pandemic eases in the Chinese-ruled city.
Lawmakers shouted and pushed one another at the Legislative Council meeting. Some democrats charged at a line of guards, seeking to eject a pro-Beijing lawmaker who attempted to chair the meeting in a move that democrats said violated procedure. Guards carried several democrats out of the chamber.
Beijing has accused the former British colony’s pro-democracy lawmakers of “malicious” filibustering to prevent some proposed bills from going to a final vote, effectively paralysing the legislature.
Democrats said the committee needs to elect a chairman first, before any legislation, including one bill that would criminalise abuse of China’s national anthem, can be discussed.
Starry Lee, of the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, attempted to chair the meeting from behind a wall of about two dozen guards in grey suits.
Democrats, who argue filibustering in the legislature is legal and an established international practice, responded by shouting “Starry Lee, step down!” and holding placards reading “ultra vires”, Latin for acting “beyond one’s powers.”
Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 with a guarantee of its much-cherished freedoms, such as an independent judiciary, not enjoyed on the mainland. Beijing rejects criticism that it is seeking to erode those freedoms. (Reuters)
A special office to oversee national security in Hong Kong officially commenced operations on Wednesday (July 8) amidst heavy security.
The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government, charged with overseeing implementation of the controversial new national security law for Hong Kong, held a ceremony in the early hours of the morning.
The new law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.
There was a heavy police presence outside the Metropark Hotel in Hong Kong, which will serve as the temporary headquarters of the new office. Police had erected water barriers and put in place crowd control measures overnight, restricting residents and foreign media from observing the ceremony.
Residents in the area expressed surprise about the rapid speed of opening in the new office, and the apparent lack of advance notice to the community.
“Everything that they have organized is quite secret”, said one resident, a 62-year-old interior designer giving his name as John Lee. “They have to let the citizens be informed earlier.”
The Metropark Hotel in Causeway Bay is located opposite Victoria Park, home of the annual candlelight rallies in memory of China’s bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy crackdown. (Reuters)
TikTok said it will exit the Hong Kong market within days, a spokesman told Reuters late on Monday (July 6), as other technology companies including Facebook Inc have suspended processing government requests for user data in the region.
The short form video app owned by China-based ByteDance has made the decision to exit the region following China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city.
Late on Monday, the U.S. secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.
U.S. lawmakers have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”
The company, now run by former Walt Disney Co executive Kevin Mayer, has said in the past that the app’s user data is not stored in China. (Reuters)
Hong Kong residents said on Tuesday (July 7) that they believe fear is spreading over freedom of expression online and expressed worries that some social media platforms may simply become unavailable amid a new sweeping national security law in the semi-autonomous city.
It comes as Facebook Inc, Google Inc and Twitter Inc said that they had suspended processing of government requests for user data in Hong Kong on Monday (July 6).
China’s parliament passed the national security legislation last week, setting the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony’s way of life since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago.
Despite the tech companies’ announcement, resident Yan Pat-to, 45, said he believes authorities will find other ways to access users’ data.
“I think the worry or the fear is already spread over Hong Kong about the cyber expression of the freedoms here,” he said.
Tech companies have long operated freely in Hong Kong, a regional financial hub where internet access has been unaffected by the firewall imposed in mainland China, which blocks Google, Twitter and Facebook.
In addition to the announcements by the U.S tech giants, TikTok, the short-form video app owned by China-based ByteDance, said it would pull out of the Hong Kong market within days. (Reuters)
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