HONG KONG (AP) – A Hong Kong legislative debate was suspended yesterday afternoon ahead of an expected vote on a contentious national anthem bill after pro-democracy lawmakers staged a protest, with one dropping a pot of pungent liquid in the chamber.
Raising a sign that said “A murderous regime stinks for 10 thousand years,” lawmaker Ray Chan walked to the front with the pot hidden inside a Chinese paper lantern. When security guards tried to stop him, he dropped the lantern and the pot, and was ejected from the meeting.
Another lawmaker who accompanied him in protest was also ejected. The chamber was evacuated, shortly before police and firemen were called in to investigate the incident.
Pro-democracy lawmakers see the bill, which would make it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem, as an infringement on freedom of expression and the greater rights that residents of the city have compared to mainland China.
Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, under a “One Country, Two Systems” agreement that guarantees the city a high degree of autonomy until 2047.
The pro-Beijing majority said the anthem law is necessary for Hong Kong citizens to show appropriate respect for the anthem. Those found guilty of intentionally abusing the “March of the Volunteers” would face up to three years in prison and fines of up to USD6,450.
The contentious debate over the national anthem bill also comes as China’s ceremonial national legislature formally approved a decision last week to enact a national security law for Hong Kong that could see Chinese security agents posted in the city.