C.Y.'s revamp motion beaten by one vote
Colleen Lee and Peter So
Incoming leader Leung Chun-ying suffered a huge setback yesterday when a proposal to fast-track his government revamp plan was narrowly vetoed by legislators leaving the new structure unlikely to be passed by July 1 when he takes over.
To the surprise of the government and lawmakers of different factions, the government's motion failed by one vote to reach the required number that would have allowed the revamp to be tabled before other outstanding bills.
To pass, the motion needed support from more than half the lawmakers present. But with 54 in the chamber, only 27 government-friendly lawmakers voted in favour while all 23 pan-democrats and two pro-establishment legislators opposed it.
New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee abstained, while Legco president Tsang Yok-sing, as usual to show impartiality, did not vote.
Critics said the government and its supporters had been overconfident and had failed to count the votes carefully, letting the motion go to a vote with six backers absent while others abstained or opposed it.
Leung blamed filibustering lawmakers for making the motion necessary and said they could cause further delays. 'If filibustering continues in the Legislative Council, the chance of having the restructuring plan approved before July 1 and for three top principal officials, two deputy secretaries and 14 bureaus being able to serve the public from July 1 will be very slim,' the chief executive-elect said hours after the defeat.
Tsang estimated that the revamp could not be dealt with until July 4 considering the time needed to scrutinise other outstanding bills.
Absent pro-establishment legislators included accountancy-sector lawmaker Paul Chan Mo-po, a hot tip for the next deputy financial secretary, and Liberal Party legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan.
That means legislators must now consider more than 20 outstanding bills and motions left over at the previous meeting before scrutinising the restructuring resolution.
But Tsang said he would consider any request from the government to forgo the customary 12-day notice period for a motion to ask lawmakers again next Wednesday to give priority to the revamp resolution.
Legislators said they believed it was unlikely the reshuffle plan would pass by July 1, meaning that only Leung and 15 top officials could be sworn in before a state leader in Hong Kong on the 15th anniversary of the SAR. The two proposed deputy secretaries and the ministers of two new bureaus will be left out.
If not passed before the end of the Legco term on July 18, it could be delayed until the new term in October.
Explaining her abstention, Ip said she supported the restructuring plan in principle but lawmakers were obliged to defend Legco's traditions.
'I am not afraid that someone will take revenge against me,' she said.
The two pro-establishment legislators who voted against the motion were finance services-sector lawmaker Chim Pui-chung and tourism-sector lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun.
Chim said that the voting result showed that trias politica - separation of powers - still existed and that the legislature was not necessarily obedient to the executive branch of the government.
Outgoing Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung was open-mouthed when Tsang announced the result.
But he later tried to play down the impact, saying: 'There are still about 10 days left within this term of government, and we shall continue to try our level best in rolling forward these proposals.'
Incumbent Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he respected the legislators' decision and would continue to push forward the restructuring plan.