HONG KONG • Seven Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians were arrested yesterday over a protest and scuffles that broke out in the legislature earlier this year, the latest prosecutions targeting Beijing's opponents in the deeply divided city.
The seven politicians - four of them sitting lawmakers - were arrested on charges of contempt and "interfering" with members of the city's Legislative Council in early May, police said.
The Chamber passes semi-autonomous Hong Kong's laws, but only half of its seats are directly elected.
Scuffles and protests routinely break out, with the pro-democracy minority often resorting to filibustering, chanting and obstruction to try to halt Bills they oppose.
On May 8, confrontations broke out in a committee that decides which Bills come up for debate.
The opposition had used months of filibustering to stop the appointment of the committee's leader. The pro-Beijing camp responded by forcibly installing one of their politicians to the committee chair.
That prompted angry scenes and a protest in the Chamber, with lawmakers from both sides displaying placards amid boisterous heckling and physical obstruction. Some of the politicians were eventually dragged out from the Chamber and the installation went ahead.
Yesterday's police action singled out the pro-democracy politicians.
"Some lawmakers dashed towards the security guards surrounding the rostrum and made it impossible for the meeting to go on," Chief Inspector Chan Wing-yu said. Asked why only pro-democracy politicians faced prosecution for their actions that day, he declined to comment.
The inability of Hong Kongers to elect their leaders and lawmakers has been at the heart of swelling opposition to Beijing's rule.
The arrested politicians could face up to a year in jail if convicted.