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HK assembly disrupted for second day; lawmakers dragged out

Chaos in Legislative Council as opposition lawmakers are removed for raising noisy objections

HONG KONG Hong Kong's parliament descended into chaos yesterday with lawmakers dragged out by security guards for heckling leader Carrie Lam as they demanded an inquiry into a brutal attack on a prominent human rights activist ahead of a major rally.

About a dozen opposition lawmakers were dragged from the city's Legislative Council by security staff for raising noisy objections yesterday.

The pro-democracy bloc in the legislature only comprises about a third of lawmakers, but the displays this week showed they have the ability to delay or even shut down debate on major economic initiatives, even if they do not have the votes.

That spells even more trouble ahead for an economy sliding into recession as protests against Beijing's grip over the city grow increasingly violent.

The knife and hammer attack on Mr Jimmy Sham, which left him bloodied and lying in the street on Wednesday night, was designed to intimidate protesters and incite violence ahead of Sunday's march, pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo told reporters.

The second day of turmoil in the Legislative Council, after Mrs Lam was forced to cut short her annual policy speech on Wednesday due to heckling, and broadcast it via video instead, underscores the political rift in the city, with no end in sight to more than four months of anti-government protests.

'SAY NO TO VIOLENCE'

"Regarding the current situation we are facing, we need to be united against violence, say no to violence," Mrs Lam said in the chamber, again defending her efforts to end the crisis.

"I have mentioned that we will be humble, listen to different voices and set up an expert commission to find a way out of the current situation we are facing," she said.

Rights group Amnesty International said the "horrifying attack" on Mr Sham, head of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), would send a chilling signal and urged authorities to investigate. Police said they would.

From hospital, Mr Sham urged people not to seek revenge. "Regardless of the identity, ethnicity, skin colour of the perpetrators, the root of the problem is the violence of the regime and the political system," he said in a statement.

Police said they believed the attackers were not Chinese, but did not elaborate.

"No matter how difficult the situation on Sunday might be, everyone please take care and be safe," said Mr Sham.

The CHRF is one of the biggest pro-democracy groups in the city and organised million-strong marches in June.

It plans a march on Sunday in the district of Kowloon, but authorities have not confirmed it will be allowed.

Past massive marches have seen families and children rally with pro-democracy activists over concerns Beijing is tightening its grip on the city and eroding democratic rights.

Beijing rejects the charge and accuses Western countries, like the US and Britain, of stirring up trouble. Under Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" formula, the city enjoys freedoms not available on the mainland such as an independent judiciary. - REUTERS

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