The pro-democracy camp has in recent months accused the Hong Kong government and the central Chinese government in Beijing of tightening control over the semi-autonomous Chinese territory in response to demands for more democracy. They say authorities are destroying the autonomy promised to the city, a global financial center with greater freedoms than mainland China.
The three former lawmakers disrupted meetings debating the now-approved National Anthem ordinance, which criminalizes any insult to or abuse of the Chinese national anthem, the “March of the Volunteers.”
On May 28, Hui rushed to the front of the legislature, dropping a rotten plant and attempting to kick it at the legislature’s president. Chu splashed a bottle of liquid in the legislature.
One week later, Chan hid a pot of pungent liquid in a paper lantern and attempted to approach the front of the chamber, but dropped it after he was stopped by security guards. On the same day, Hui also splashed some liquid at the front of the legislature and was escorted out.
Both times, emergency services were called to the venue, and several pro-Beijing lawmakers reported feeling unwell.
Chu and Chan quit the legislature in protest after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam postponed legislative elections by one year, citing the coronavirus pandemic. They said the postponement breached the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which came into effect after the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
The pro-democracy camp had hoped to win a majority in the elections that had been slated for September. They have criticized the postponement of the elections as an attempt by the pro-Beijing government to thwart their efforts.
The arrests of the lawmakers is the latest in a string of arrests in recent months. Earlier this month, seven pro-democracy lawmakers — including Chu and Chan — were arrested over another chaotic legislative meeting on May 8.
During that meeting, scuffles had broken out between the pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps as they debated over who would preside over a committee that oversees bills. The pro-democracy lawmakers arrested were accused of rushing the chairperson’s desk, bumping into security guards and throwing sheets of paper from the public gallery.
Last week, 15 pro-democracy lawmakers resigned en masse after Beijing passed a resolution that resulted in the disqualification of four of its members from the legislature. Hui and another lawmaker, Claudia Mo, left their posts last week, while the remaining lawmakers are expected to stay on until Dec. 1. The resignations leave the body with virtually no opposition voice.