Hong Kong lawmakers clash as pro-Beijing camp elects chair

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The move "highlights how Beijing aims to reassert control over Hong Kong", said political and corporate risk consultant Steve Vickers, the CEO of Steve Vickers and Associates.

The house committee's role is to scrutinise bills before a second reading in the legislative council and has built up a backlog after failing to elect a chairperson since late past year.

There were scuffles in Hong Kong's parliament Monday as lawmakers fought for control of a key committee chair.

Starry Lee, leader of the pro-Beijing DAB, the largest party in the body, was eventually elected with 40 votes. The Democrats chanted "foul play" and held a placard reading "CCP (China Communist Party) tramples HK legislature".

"Security guards drag several pro-democracy lawmakers from the Hong Kong legislature", the organization tweeted.

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Tensions between Washington and Beijing have spiked in recent weeks, as Pompeo and President Donald Trump have complained about China's early handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

One lawmaker threw torn-up pages of the legislature's rulebook at members of the opposition, while another shouted, "It's an illegal meeting".

"Hong Kong is marching toward the beginning of the end of "one country, two systems", pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo aid after the meeting ended. The demonstrations were initially sparked by a controversial extradition bill but evolved into a demand for greater democracy.

The United States and China have also clashed over journalists working in each other's countries.

The house committee's role is to scrutinise bills before a second reading in the legislative council and has built up a backlog after failing to elect a chairperson since late past year. The backlog includes the China national anthem bill, which is expected to be given a second reading on May 27 despite the procedural chaos.

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The arrest of 15 activists in April, including veteran politicians, a publishing tycoon and senior barristers, thrust the protest movement back into the spotlight and drew condemnation from Washington and worldwide rights groups.

Liao acknowledged the bill could spark social unrest.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned China on Sunday that the United States could change its view of Hong Kong's status in light of what it sees as interference with free press.

"The reality in Hong Kong today is that whenever Beijing, whenever Carrie Lam and the pro-establishment don't like something, they will do whatever it takes, including breaking the system that we have, the rules that we have", Kwok said Monday.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a pact with former colonial master Britain that the city would have a high degree of autonomy and enjoy some freedoms unavailable in the mainland.

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"Any decision impinging on Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms, as guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, would inevitably impact our assessment of One Country, Two Systems and the status of the territory", Pompeo said.

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