Legco in marathon sittingover filibuster attempt

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am


A 24-hour debate on the controversial by-election law began yesterday as more pan-democrats joined the filibuster intended to block it.

The Legislative Council's first all-night debate in two years, aimed at beating the filibuster attempt by People Power lawmakers, also drew opposing groups of protesters, who taunted each other outside.

Two protesters were arrested for assault in separate incidents. Both were released on bail.

Inside, some lawmakers were dressed in sneakers and casual clothes, while others brought in tea to keep themselves awake through the round-the-clock sitting.

The debate - which had already been adjourned twice in the last two weeks after failing to meet the quorum - resumed at about 2.30pm, after a morning question period.

The bill would force lawmakers to wait six months after resigning a seat to be eligible to run in a by-election. The bill was launched after five pan-democratic lawmakers resigned in 2010 only to immediately stand as candidates in the resulting by-elections, in what they called a de facto referendum on universal suffrage.

In the morning, Alan Leong Kah-kit, leader of the pan-democratic Civic Party, moved a motion to suspend proceedings, 'to make way for important bills'. It was rejected by Legco president Tsang Yok-sing.

At that point most pan-democrats left the chamber to continue their boycott. However, independent lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo joined the filibuster at 5pm, and the Labour Party chairman, Lee Cheuk-yan, said his party's lawmakers would 'substitute' for other members in order to continue the filibuster at midnight.

People Power lawmakers Wong Yuk-man and Albert Chan Wai-yip are leading the filibuster, having filed more than 1,000 amendments to the bill. Cheng called on lawmakers from the Democratic Party and the Civic Party to join the filibuster.

Democratic Party legislator Fred Li Wah-ming said his caucus would discuss the issue. Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, of the Civic Party, said she would closely monitor the situation.

Wong Kwok-hing of the government-friendly Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), said legislators 'simply have no choice' but to endure the long meeting to ensure bills are passed before the Legco term finishes on July 18. Bills not passed by then will lapse.

Liberal Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee joined party members in a 30-hour hunger strike against the filibuster. 'It is a silent protest because the filibuster is causing anger in our society,' she said.

Hundreds of supporters of People Power and the Civil and Human Rights Front held rallies outside to support the filibuster. They encountered an anti-filibuster demonstration and the two groups taunted each other and threw water bottles.

Tsang said he would consult lawmakers this morning to decide whether to convene another all-night meeting. He also said he would consider suspending the lengthy full council meeting to allow for panel and bills committee meetings. Whatever else happens, the meeting will be suspended on Saturday for a hearing on government restructuring.