Debate on election law faces halt again
Tony Cheung and Peter So
The shadow of adjournment is looming today as the Legislative Council debate continues on a bill to restrict by-elections.
Some pro-government lawmakers have evening engagements that will prevent them countering a boycott of proceedings by pan-democrats, which will leave the council short of the minimum attendance needed for debate.
The bill would amend electoral law to bar lawmakers who quit from standing for election again within six months. The government moved it following last year's resignations by pan-democrats to trigger by-elections they hoped - in vain, as it turned out - would be a de facto referendum on democratisation.
The two People Power lawmakers filed 1,306 amendments as part of a filibuster intended to force the government to withdraw the bill, and debate on it has already been suspended once. It resumed last night after Legco had dealt with two low-profile bills at the government's request.
An adjournment today would mean debate on it would only resume next Wednesday, when it could face similar disruption.
At today's meeting, most of the 23 pan-democratic lawmakers are once more likely to be absent. With three pro-government legislators - Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen and Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee - out of town, at least 30 of the remaining pro-government lawmakers will need to be in the chamber to maintain the necessary quorum of members.
Ip Kwok-him, of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, has drawn up a roster to try to co-ordinate attendance by members of the pro-government camp. It shows that by 5pm, there may only be 29 lawmakers present - one short of the quorum - and the risk of adjournment will peak at 7pm as four more leave.
'Some colleagues said they have other engagements, such as attending business meetings or even a funeral,' Ip said.
Last night, Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, the constitutional and mainland affairs minister, appealed to radical lawmakers to withdraw the amendments and jokingly sought media compassion. 'Some lawmakers might be tired after a long meeting. I hope the cameramen can be lenient and not take too many close- ups of those who are taking a nap.'
Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee tabled a motion to suspend the debate, but lawmakers could not vote on it last night and the meeting will resume at 9am today.