Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, commonly known as LegCo, on Thursday suspended debate on a controversial bill that would criminalize disrespect of the Chinese Communist national anthem after pro-democracy legislator Ted Hui threw a rotten plant at the seat of LegCo President Andrew Leung.
The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported the incident occurred during the second reading of the anthem bill, which became a flashpoint of controversy between pro-Beijing forces and Hong Kongers worried about their independence long before an even more onerous bill to impose draconian “national security” regulations was introduced, not in the Hong Kong legislature but in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rubber-stamp legislature in Beijing.
The anthem bill, which Hong Kong legislators at least get to discuss and vote on, would impose fines of up to $6,450 in U.S. dollars, plus up to three years of jail time, for those who “insult” the Chinese anthem or perform it in a “distorted or disrespectful way.” Protests against the anthem bill have been held near the LegCo building all week, meeting a police response that included tear gas deployment, hundreds of arrests, and charges of police brutality.
The Hong Kong legislature has been in turmoil ever since strongarm tactics were employed to install parliamentary officers, physically eject pro-democracy legislators who objected to the violation of LegCo rules, and break up deadlocks against bills desired by Beijing. A democrat named Eddie Chu was ejected on Thursday for holding up a sarcastic sign that was deemed offensive to the pro-Beijing chairperson that was installed by force this week, Starry Lee.
“On Wednesday, opposition lawmakers including Civic Party’s Tanya Chan and Dennis Kwok submitted motions to adjourn the council meeting as part of their tactics to delay the passing of the controversial draft legislation. Their motions were denied by the LegCo president,” the HKFP reported.
This led to Hui’s expression of discontent on Thursday, which involved dropping “a bag containing a brownish fetid substance” in front of Leung’s chair.
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Hui “ran towards Leung with the container and threw it in the president’s direction when he was stopped by security guards.” The container then leaked a “semi-solid substance, light brown in color” with a “strongly unpleasant smell,” the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
Leung ordered Hui expelled and then suspended the LegCo meeting. Police later evacuated the building, “citing concerns over potential poisonous gases.” One of the pro-Beijing legislators complained of being nauseated by the smell from the bag, as did one of the LegCo security guards.
Hui said the bag contained a dead and rotten potted plant. Police officials said the bag emitted “carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide, which has the characteristic odor of rotten eggs” and can be dangerous in high concentrations, although they added the amount of gas released from the bag was not harmful.
“What has gone rotten is our ‘one country, two systems’, our rule of law, our Hong Kong values. I want to give Andrew Leung and the pro-establishment camp a taste of it,” he said.
Hong Kong police said they would “conduct a follow-up investigation” of the incident and “take resolute enforcement action” if Hui was deemed guilty of criminal actions.
Leung said he was “disappointed” with Hui’s behavior, saying it damaged LegCo’s reputation and “the public’s expectations of the council.”
The second reading of the anthem bill was eventually completed on Thursday. The bill was approved and scheduled for a third reading on June 3, followed by a final vote on June 4.