'Rules change would be dangerous'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2012, 12:00am


In the wake of the filibuster saga, former Legislative Council president Andrew Wong Wang-fat has warned against changing house rules to specify procedures for terminating a debate at the committee stage.

Wong expressed concern that any such changes could be abused by lawmakers.

His comments came after Legco president Tsang Yok-sing put the brakes on the filibuster of a contentious by-election bill on Thursday.

The delaying tactic by pan-democrats prompted pro-establishment lawmakers to call for a mechanism to stop filibusters at the committee stage, when legislators examine and vote on each amendment to a bill.

'It would be very dangerous to amend the rules of procedure,' said Wong, the last president of the legislature during British rule. 'The fear is that the majority at any one time might abuse it ... they can move the motion [to stop a debate] presumably sooner than [appropriate].'

Speaking after RTHK's City Forum, he said if such a rule were to be introduced, it should be done 'very carefully', so that the president or the chairman at the committee stage would be responsible to ensure the minority's rights were protected.

Wong said Tsang should not have stopped the marathon session 'merely based on his own judgment' but should have let the full council decide whether to stop the debate.

The session was to scrutinise People Power's 1,306 amendments and a government amendment to the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2012, which bars lawmakers who resign from contesting by-elections in the same term for six months.

Tsang said earlier he did not think a closed-door meeting with lawmakers in the early hours of Thursday to discuss whether to halt the filibuster had ended on a sour note. He said a pan-democratic lawmaker had even initiated a handshake with him.

Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said last night Tsang's assertion that pan-democrats did not strongly oppose the halt at the meeting was 'misleading'.

Democratic Party lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong admitted having shaken hands with Tsang but stressed that it was out of courtesy.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong, 63, declined to comment yesterday when asked if he would become the deputy chief secretary as rumoured.

But he said, considering his age and the fact he had already served the government for 38 years, it would be time for him to take a rest.

Two weeks ago, Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng hinted that she might quit after June 30 to make family a priority.