It seems for some people, settling differences with fists doesn't end after you've left the primary school playground. The Legislative Council descended into unprecedented chaos on Saturday when the two rival camps clashed during a meeting on the extradition bill. The government condemned the clash as “extremely disorderly and uncontrollable conditions”.
Both the pro-establishment and the pan-democratic camps later filed reports with police about the fight, which forced the meeting to adjourn and left a lawmaker hospitalised and at least three others claiming injuries.
The clash broke out as the pro-democracy and pro-government camps called separate meetings of a Legco committee that scrutinises the bill. The bill would allow a case-by-case transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong lacks a former extradition deal, including mainland China and Taiwan.
At the height of the tussles, scores of pan-democrats were seen trying to break through a cordon of pro-establishment camp lawmakers, who had surrounded 73-year-old Abraham Razack, the newly appointed presiding member of the bills committee.
In a statement issued on Saturday night, the government regretted that the lawmakers had failed to elect a chairman of the committee after three meetings, and urged them to resume rational discussions and peaceful exchanges.
“The government expressed utmost regret over the extremely disorderly and uncontrollable conditions resulting in bodily injuries caused by serious disruptions [in the bills committee],” it said, adding the event was unprecedented in the Legco’s history.
“We are also gravely concerned that if this situation continues, it would have an adverse impact on the scrutiny of the bill in Legco,” the statement read.
Two senior mainland officials, Zhang Yong, vice-chairman of the Basic Law Committee of the mainland’s top lawmaking body, and Chen Dong, deputy director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, voiced their support of the bill on Saturday, saying the city should be a shopping paradise and not one for fugitives.
Hong Kong officials have stressed the urgency of the bill to allow the transfer of local resident Chan Tong-kai, 20 wanted in Taiwan on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend last year. While the pro-establishment camp wants to fast-track the amendments, the pan-democrats are determined to halt the bill over fears that Hongkongers could be extradited to mainland China for political reasons.
In a controversial move on Monday, Razack replaced James To Kun-sun, a democrat who had presided over the first two meetings, which were stalled by the pan-democrat’s filibustering.
The pan-democrats disavowed To’s replacement and pressed ahead with their own meeting at 8.30am on Saturday, half an hour earlier than the one scheduled by their rivals in the same room.
As soon as Razack appeared at Legco escorted by his allies shortly before 9am, the pan-democrats tried to stop him proceeding to the meeting room.
A number of lawmakers fell to the ground as they pushed and shoved each other along the packed hallway.
“Abraham, please don’t be remembered as a sinner!” Wu Chi-wai, the Democratic Party chairman, shouted after Razack was ushered into the room.
But the chaos continued inside, with NeoDemocrat lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai falling to the ground after standing on a table, and appearing to have fainted.
Pro-government lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu accused Fan of acting.
“Stop acting and get up, Gary Fan!” Ho said.
In response, the Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho defended his colleague and called Ho “cold-blooded”.
Fan was later taken to Queen Mary Hospital.
Razack announced at 9.15am there would be a pause in meeting. There were further clashes after it resumed at 11.45am, before it was forced to adjourn at noon.
Speaking after the meeting, Razack said he would continue to preside over future meetings until a chairman was elected.
“I have never seen such a hostile situation in my 19 years here as a member of Legco,” Razack said.
“We couldn’t continue the meeting at that moment as it had become dangerous.”
While Razack decided to reschedule the meeting for 8.30am on Tuesday, his rivals announced they would also convene one 15 minutes earlier on the same day and at the same venue. The Legco secretariat refused to confirm if security would be stepped up for the next meeting.
Council Front lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said the blame for the conflict between the camps lay squarely with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
“Culprit No 1 is Carrie Lam, who tried so hard to push through this evil law,” Mo said.
“Her goons and thugs at the legislature are trying to twist all the house rules … that’s what caused the chaotic situation this morning.”
Three pro-establishment camp lawmakers – Ben Chan Han-pan, Elizabeth Quat and Alice Mak Mei-kuen – said they would tell the police they were hurt during the scrum.
Chan was later said to have injured his shoulder and needed to undergo observation for a week. Quat was said to be suffering from neck injuries while Mak hurt her right hand.
The police also received a report from the pan-democrats during the meeting about Fan being “assaulted”.
A spokesman said police would follow up on the two cases, which were classified as “requests for police investigation”. But he added Fan said he was unwell and could not assist with the inquiry for the time being.