Seven pro-democracy opposition politicians, including four sitting lawmakers, have been arrested in Hong Kong, over charges related to a scuffle that broke out in its legislative council between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing legislatures in May this year.
Hong Kong Police has confirmed the arrests at a press briefing and said they were arrested on charges of “contempt” and “interfering” with members of the city’s Legislative Council on 8th May.
According to local media reports, Authorities made a series of early morning arrests of politicians from the Democratic Party, the Labour Party, and the pan-democratic camp.
Police said the seven were charged under a law governing conduct in the chamber, an offense that carries up to 12 months in prison.
The seven were later released on bail and are expected to be produced in court on Thursday.
Those arrested were among a group of pro-democracy legislators who tried to storm the chairperson’s seat in the Legislative Council after pro-Beijing councillors forcibly installed one of their politicians as the committee leader following months of deadlock.
The Democratic Party described the arrests as ‘arbitrary’. The bloc of pan-democratic lawmakers condemned the actions in a statement, saying the arrests suppress the rights of legislators to dissent.
As per media reports, Hong Kong Police declined to comment on a question of arrests of only pro-democracy politicians and not any pro-Beijing politician.
The decision to prosecute the lawmakers over behavior in the chamber adds to mounting legal battles for opposition figures in the city.
Many already face charges for their roles in a mass uprising against the government that erupted in June last year.
Pressure on the pro-democracy camp has intensified this year after Beijing implemented a sweeping new National Security Law in the semi-autonomous territory on 30th June bypassing the legislative council.
Hong Kong Officials also postponed the elections for the Legislative Council for a year which were scheduled for September, citing risks from COVID-19 pandemic.
Opposition groups called the delay a political move to ensure the body retained its pro-Beijing majority.
Half of the city’s legislature is directly elected with the other half chosen by a complex appointment process.