Hong Kong lawmakers dragged from chamber as leader heckled for second day

Asia
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HONG KONG: Lawmakers were dragged out of Hong Kong’s legislature by security guards on Thursday (Oct 17) after they heckled the city’s pro-Beijing leader for a second day running, the latest outburst of political rancour in the strife-torn city.

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Chief executive Carrie Lam has faced an outpouring of anger from her opponents since the legislature opened its doors for a new session on Wednesday, three months after the building was trashed by masked protesters.

Hong Kong lawmakers escorted by security out of Legislative Council
A pro-democracy lawmaker is forcibly removed from the chamber of the Legislative Council for interrupting Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attending a question and answer session in Hong Kong, on Oct 17, 2019. (Photo: AP/Mark Schiefelbein)
Pro-democracy lawmaker Wu Chi-wai chants slogans in protest
Pro-democracy lawmaker Wu Chi-wai (centre) chants slogans in protest as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam holds a question and answer session at the Legislative Council  in Hong Kong on Oct 17, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

READ: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

READ: Hong Kong protest leader Jimmy Sham left bloodied in street attack

Lam was unable to give a State of the Union-style policy speech on Wednesday after lawmakers repeatedly interrupted her.

Instead, she was forced to deliver the address in a pre-recorded video.

Lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki
Pro-democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki is escorted by security after throwing flowers inside the chamber as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam question and answer session at the Legislative Council (Legco) in Hong Kong on Oct 17, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)
A pro-democracy lawmaker is forcibly removed from the chamber of the Legislative Council
A pro-democracy lawmaker is forcibly removed from the chamber of the Legislative Council as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (left) speaks at a question and answer session in Hong Kong, on Oct 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

She returned to the Legislative Council on Thursday for a session in which she was due to answer questions from lawmakers about the content of that policy speech.

But chaos erupted once more as her political opponents chanted slogans and were dragged one by one from the chamber.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam walks past protesting lawmakers
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam walks past protesting lawmakers as she arrives for a question and answer session in the Legislative Council (Legco) in Hong Kong on Oct 17, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

Hong Kong has been rocked by the worst political unrest in decades.

Millions have taken to the streets, initially against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the authoritarian Chinese mainland.

READ: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam aborts policy speech as lawmakers disrupt session

READ: Embattled Hong Kong leader unveils measures to ease housing crunch

But after Beijing and Lam took a hard line, the movement snowballed into a broader push for police accountability.

Violence has escalated on both sides of the political divide with hardcore protesters wielding petrol bombs and stones, and police responding with ever-increasing amounts of tear gas, rubber bullets and even live rounds in recent weeks.

Vigilante attacks have also flourished.

A leading figure within Hong Kong’s democracy movement said on Thursday that he was recovering after being set upon by a gang of hammer-wielding thugs, the latest assault on Beijing critics in Hong Kong.

Jimmy Sham, one of the protest movement’s most recognisable faces, was left lying in a pool of his own blood late Wednesday after he was jumped by around five men in the district of Mong Kok.

“I will continue to fight for the five demands in a peaceful, rational and non-violent manner,” Sham wrote on Facebook from his hospital bed.

STREET JUSTICE 

Sham is the main spokesman of the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that advocates non-violence and organised a series of record-breaking, peaceful marches earlier this summer.

Hardcore protesters have also increasingly meted out their own street justice, beating people who vocally disagree with their goals or are viewed to be government loyalists.

Collage: Hong Kong protest leader Jimmy Sham attacked
Screengrabs from a video circulating online showing emergency responders attending to Jimmy Sham.

READ: Hong Kong protest leader Jimmy Sham left bloodied in street attack
READ: Hong Kong retail rents fall sharply in Q3

Protesting lawmakers
Protesting lawmakers, including Democratic Party politician Lam Cheuk-ting (second from left), hold a press conference outside the Legislative Council (Legco) chamber in Hong Kong on Oct 17, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Ed Jones)

Hong Kong’s instability is fuelled by years of growing fears Beijing is eroding the city’s unique freedoms, contrary to a deal that outlined Hong Kong’s 1997 return to China from British colonial rule.

Lam, who was appointed by a pro-Beijing stacked committee and has historically low approval ratings, has struggled to end the political crisis.

Wednesday’s policy speech was billed as an attempt to win hearts and minds after four months of seething protests.

But it was heavily criticised both by opponents and even her allies for offering little in the way of a substantive political solution.

READ: China says US House should stop interfering in Hong Kong

Instead, Lam focused on economic gripes, vowing to increase housing and land supply in a city that has one of the least affordable property markets in the world, and announcing a handful of subsidies.

But she gave no political concessions to the democracy movement and said progress could only be made once violence from protesters ends.

Activists have said they will only end their huge rallies if core demands are met, including an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for the more than 2,500 people arrested and fully free elections.

Both Lam and Beijing have repeatedly dismissed those demands and say Hong Kong’s freedoms are being protected.

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