Foul play

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2012, 12:00am

When the filibuster aimed at blocking the controversial by-election amendment bill entered its third round on Wednesday, the pro-establishment camp demanded a marathon Legislative Council meeting to push through the bill. These lawmakers seemed to think it was a big deal to attend an overnight sitting. What a joke! To many public servants such as firefighters, police officers, and immigration and hospital staff, long hours and overnight duties are common. I don't see why legislators are so different.

During the marathon session, it was embarrassing to see the pro-establishment camp use different ways to complain about the filibuster while the Democratic and Civic parties kept only some of their lawmakers in the council, allowing the rest to go home. No responsible lawmaker in any assembly outside Hong Kong would have done what they did. Our lawmakers refused to even fulfil their basic duty to attend meetings. They should all be disqualified.

This bill is a blatant disregard of our electoral rights and the right to vote and be voted into public office. It goes against the democratic principles that the majority of Hongkongers hold dear. The democrats, by not giving their full support to the attempt to block the bill, should be ashamed of themselves for failing to defend these rights.

The filibuster was eventually killed by Legco president Tsang Yok-sing on Thursday. But with some 1,300 amendments to the bill, voting on them alone will take two to three days.

Tsang's action killed more than just the filibuster; it destroyed Legco as a legislative body. He acted unilaterally in suppressing the different views in the council.

According to the Basic Law, there are no specific guidelines on how the council president should act in relation to meetings or unusual circumstances. But article 92 of the house rules says the president may, if he thinks fit, be guided by the practice and procedures of other legislatures.

Tsang took advantage of this to kill the debate. He has set a very bad example, obliterating the people's civil rights and altering the system of checks and balances by taking away the power of the legislature. Tsang has effectively dealt a blow to the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of our government, which is exactly what Beijing has long advocated.

It seems the plug has been pulled on our democratisation process and democratic politics. If that's so, what's the purpose of Legco?

Tsang might have pulled the plug, but the person behind this political farce is chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying. The debate was halted a day after Leung and his right-hand woman, Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, visited the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. Perception is everything. We can't blame people for suspecting that the fundamental principle of 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' no longer exists.

Our civil rights have been terminated. We have witnessed the death of the legislature - all thanks to Tsang and legislators across the political spectrum. Everyone is responsible, especially Tsang.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.