Tactical attempt to ward off filibuster
Colleen Lee and Peter So
The government has asked the Legislative Council to prioritise two low- profile bills ahead of the debate on new by-election rules, as pan-democratic lawmakers show no sign of backing down on a filibuster attempt.
Lawmakers at tomorrow's Legislative Council session will be asked to focus first on a fisheries protection bill, then debate miscellaneous changes to election laws, before turning their attention to the proposal to ban legislators who resign from contesting by-elections for six months.
A government spokesman said last night that 're-prioritising the bills to be handled' would 'allow more time for the related legislators [who are attempting the filibuster] to reconsider' and 'maintain the efficient operation of Legco'.
The by-elections bill is the subject of an attempted filibuster by two People Power lawmakers, and almost all pro-government lawmakers could be forced to spend days in the Legislative Council to avoid the session being stopped for the week. Pan-democrats successfully blocked debate on the bill on Thursday by using Legco procedural rules, under which debate is suspended unless 30 of the 60 lawmakers are present within 15 minutes of a quorum being called.
There are fears that the debate on the bill, subject to 1,300 amendments by People Power's Albert Chan Wai-yip and Wong Yuk-man, will delay other Legco business before the legislative term ends in July, including chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying's government shake-up.
When the bill does come up for debate, most pro-government lawmakers will have to be in the chamber day after day.
Most, if not all, pan-democrats are not expected to be in the chamber when the quorum is counted, and with three pro-government lawmakers - Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen and Tommy Cheung Yu-yan - out of town, a plan by Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairman Tam Yiu-chung, for lawmakers to attend in shifts is scuppered. Just 34 pro-government lawmakers will be able to attend. 'Rotation will not work as the number of pro-establishment lawmakers who can attend the meeting will just barely form the quorum,' Tam said.
Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee yesterday wrote to Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen calling on the government to defer discussion of the bill. But Raymond Tam said: 'I hope the two legislators can rein in at the edge of the precipice and withdraw the 1,000-plus amendments in the public interest.'
Chan remained defiant yesterday, saying: 'The government should return to the right path after getting lost. They should withdraw the bill.'
Meanwhile, the head of the chief executive-elect's office again said there was no need for public consultation on Leung's shake-up plans.
But Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun added that the idea of an opinion poll to assess the public's view was 'perfectly acceptable', but did not elaborate on who should carry out such a poll.