Protests disrupt debate as Hong Kong legislature starts voting on controversial China national anthem Bill
HONG KONG: Police and firefighters entered Hong Kong's legislature on Thursday (Jun 4) after two pro-democracy lawmakers threw foul-smelling liquid to protest against the Tiananmen Square incident 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 criminalise 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.
The disruption in the legislature came after pro-establishment lawmakers vetoed most amendments to the anthem Bill proposed by democrats.
Hong Kong's Legislative Council started voting on amendments to the Bill on Thursday that would make disrespecting China's national anthem a criminal offence, amid heightened fears over Beijing's tightening grip on the city.
The voting came just as people in Hong Kong were set to commemorate the bloody 1989 incident by Chinese troops in and around Tiananmen Square by lighting candles across the city later in the day. Police have banned the annual vigil, citing the coronavirus outbreak.
A final vote on the Bill is expected later on Thursday.
The Bill, which will govern the use and playing of the Chinese national anthem, could punish those who insult the anthem with up to three years' jail and fines of up to HK$50,000 (US$6,450).
The Bill states that "all individuals and organisations" should respect and dignify the national anthem and play it and sing it on "appropriate occasions".
It also orders that primary and secondary school students be taught to sing it, along with its history and etiquette.
Tensions in Hong Kong 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 groups.
Protesters and pro-democracy politicians say the anthem Bill represents the latest sign of what they see as accelerating interference from Beijing.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to Chinese rule in 1997 with guarantees that the city's core freedoms and way of life would be protected under a "one country, two systems" formula, which Beijing says it respects.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the Bill has been passed. This has been changed after Reuters corrected its report.