Protest disrupts Hong Kong legislative debate over China national anthem bill

Reuters

Posted at Jun 04 2020 03:57 PM

The police take photos at the chamber of the Legislative Council after pro-democracy lawmakers hurled objects during third reading on the controversial national anthem bill in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2020. Tyrone Siu, Reuters

HONG KONG - Police and firefighters entered Hong Kong's legislature on Thursday after two pro-democracy lawmakers threw foul-smelling liquid to protest against China's "murderous" crackdown by Chinese troops in and around Tiananmen Square 31 years ago.

Lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan rushed to the front of the chamber during a debate over a controversial bill that would criminalize disrespect of China's national anthem, splashing the reeking fluid as guards grappled with them. Police and firefighters later arrived on the scene.

"A murderous state stinks forever. What we did today is to remind the world that we should never forgive the Chinese Communist Party for killing its own people 31 years ago," Chu said later, before he and Chan were removed from the chamber.

A final vote on the bill is expected later on Thursday with people in Hong Kong set to commemorate the bloody 1989 crackdown by lighting candles across the city.

For the first time, police have banned an annual vigil to mark the event that is usually held in downtown Victoria Park, citing the coronavirus outbreak.

The disruption in the legislature came after pro-establishment lawmakers vetoed most amendments to the anthem bill proposed by democrats.

If passed, the bill could punish those who insult the anthem with up to three years jail and/or fines of up to HK$50,000 ($6,450). It states that "all individuals and organisations" should respect and dignify the national anthem and play it and sing it on "appropriate occasions".

Tensions in the Chinese-ruled city have ramped up after Beijing gave the green light last week to move ahead with national security laws to tackle secession, subversion and foreign interference.

The move was quickly condemned by the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada, as well as international human rights groups and some business lobbies over concerns it will erode freedoms in the global financial hub.

Chinese authorities and the Beijing-backed government in Hong Kong say there is no threat to the city's high degree of autonomy and the new security law would be tightly focused.

Breaking with their usual policy of political neutrality, HSBC and Standard Chartered banks gave their backing to the new law on Hong Kong on Wednesday.