Chaos in legislative chamber, relative calm outside LegCo

Pro-democracy legislators project the words “five demands, not one less” on Carrie Lam before she was able to address the Legislative Council on Oct 16, 2019.
Pro-democracy legislators project the words “five demands, not one less” on Carrie Lam before she was able to address the Legislative Council on Oct 16, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Heckling lawmakers prevented beleaguered Chief Executive Carrie Lam from delivering her policy address in Hong Kong's legislative chamber yesterday.

But outside, often the scene of angry clashes between protesters and police in recent months, a relative calm ensued.

The mayhem within the chamber also laid bare the current polarisation of Hong Kong society - mass protests against an extradition Bill escalated in June and have since morphed into calls for greater democracy. The Bill would have allowed for fugitives to be handed over to several jurisdictions, including mainland China.

In Hong Kong's equivalent of a Parliament, pro-democracy lawmakers had prepared posters, portable speakers and even projectors which they deployed to full effect during Mrs Lam's speech.

For the first time in months, protest chants were heard in the Legislative Council (LegCo) rather than outside, as legislators shouted "five demands, not one less" and "Carrie Lam, step down, investigate police brutality".

Drowning out Mrs Lam, the group also played clips of people screaming, which they said were recorded during incidents of police brutality against protesters. "Five demands, not one less" was also projected on Mrs Lam during the brief few minutes when she tried to speak.

Amid the ruckus, LegCo president Andrew Leung repeatedly tried to urge calm, even kicking several lawmakers out of the chamber.

When it appeared impossible for Mrs Lam to continue, placards were flung at her as she tried to leave, surrounded by security officers.

Her address was later broadcast live from her official residence.

"She is so terrified that she has to hide behind the camera," said pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo.

Another pan-democratic lawmaker, Ms Tanya Chan, who was asked to leave the chamber, said the protesters' five demands had been "very clear".

 
 
 
 
 

"I really urge her, if she can't govern Hong Kong and she has no determination to govern Hong Kong, and she has no ability and (is) even incapable in administrating Hong Kong, please step down," she said, calling it the only way Hong Kong can move forward.

But outside, under a brilliant blue sky, the colour of Mrs Lam's policy address booklet - she said the colour was to signify the end of a "storm" - a handful of anti-Beijing protesters stood around at the LegCo's public entrance as one man blasted pre-recorded protest slogans from a speaker.

Earlier plans by protesters to surround the building to prevent Mrs Lam from delivering her address had been scrapped.

Dozens of police officers in riot gear kept close watch over empty streets, and water-filled barriers provided an additional layer of security.

"The lawmakers need to sort themselves out before they can try to sort out the country," said Mr Tommy Cheung, a retiree who had listened to a radio broadcast of the proceedings at Tamar Park.

"But at least they have sent their message loud and clear," the 76-year-old added.

As for the contentious Bill, it was meant to have been formally withdrawn during yesterday's legislative session.

But the turn of events meant the sitting was suspended and Hong Kongers would have to wait another week for the top item on their list of demands.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2019, with the headline 'Chaos in legislative chamber, relative calm outside LegCo'. Print Edition | Subscribe