Raymond Wong Yuk Man

Pause in hostilities for president's birthday

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2012, 12:00am


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It was probably the toughest birthday that Tsang Yok-sing has ever spent.

The Legislative Council president, who turned 65 yesterday, made an unprecedented decision to kill a filibuster after an all-night debate in the Legco chamber.

Tsang had approved the overnight meeting that started on Wednesday morning to debate a controversial bill on scrapping Legco by-elections.

Then it came to the attention of his fellow lawmakers - thanks to media reporters present - that the continuing debate would coincide with Tsang's birthday.

As the clock ticked towards midnight, Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan - who had joined the filibuster - raised a motion to suspend the debate. Tsang announced a short break so that he could consider Lee's request.

At the dining hall, to celebrate Tsang's birthday, staff of the Legco Secretariat gathered legislators from across the political spectrum and dozens of reporters who were staying overnight.

Ten minutes of levity followed, a contrast to the heated debate in the chamber. Tsang said his birthday wish was that all the lawmakers could realise their own wishes, but admitted: 'I know it will be impossible in this Legco, given the opposite political stances of the legislators.'

Lawmaker Wong Yuk-man, who with fellow People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip had proposed 1,306 amendments to a bill to restrict by-elections, presented Tsang with a birthday cake.

The meeting resumed after the party, whereupon Tsang rejected Lee's request for a suspension. Government-friendly lawmakers, well prepared for the all-night sitting, proceeded to kill time.

The Federation of Trade Unions' Wong Kwok-hing, known for his satirical calligraphy in protest at the filibuster, spent most of the night creating his latest work.

It was not calligraphy this time, but a crayoned comic showing a giant snail blocking the road and causing a 'Legco meeting traffic jam', a mockery of the radical lawmakers' effort that 'blocked key bills and issues'.

His colleague, Pan Pey-chyou, was allegedly caught 'falling asleep' by Wong, but Pan later said he had merely closed his eyes to rest while listening to the speeches.

Tsang entered into occasional arguments with radical legislators as he stopped them making repetitions in their speeches. But his toughest challenge came in the small hours as he invoked the rules of procedure to kill the filibuster.

A heated debate with other lawmakers and a briefing session with the media followed.

Meanwhile, 65-year-old Liberal Party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee, who was on a 30-hour hunger strike against the filibuster, was taken to hospital. Lau, who had high blood pressure, felt dizzy and had a stomach ache.

She returned to Legco in the afternoon after a medical check-up.

Tsang continued hosting the meeting until 5pm yesterday.

At the party, the lawmakers sang a birthday song that included the lyrics: 'Wishing you will have a day like today every year.'

Tsang appeared hesitant about agreeing.

Asked after the meeting adjourned whether he had endured the toughest birthday, he replied: 'My life has been very difficult.'