C.Y. revamp plan hit by low turnout
Tony Cheung and Tanna Chong
Low attendance by lawmakers yesterday forced suspension of a Legislative Council meeting and created an even greater risk that incoming chief executive Leung Chun-ying's government restructuring plan will be abandoned before the legislature's term ends on July 18.
The plenary session was halted after just four hours when the number in the chamber dwindled to 29, one short of a quorum. Absentees included 14 pro-government lawmakers and 17 pan-democrats.
Legco president Tsang Yok-sing said he would seek lawmakers' consent for round-the-clock meetings in July to clear the backlog of outstanding business.
The backlog consists of 10 government bills, including measures to ban unfair trade practices and to regulate sales of new flats, and 17 government resolutions, including one on Leung's revamp plan.
The whole process of restructuring will have to begin again in October if not passed in the current term.
Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing apologised on behalf of four absent party members, saying they had other engagements and did not intend to cause the suspension.
But lawmaker Ip Kwok-him of the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) criticised pan-democrats over the adjournment.
'We are waiting to deal with many important bills,' he said. 'Why are lawmakers, especially the pan-democrats, still delaying the vettings?'
Yesterday's suspension was the third adjournment in two months of the plenary session, which will not resume until tomorrow. Tsang said it cost 15 hours of discussion time.
The Legco Secretariat said last week that the earliest the restructuring proposal could be dealt with was July 11, but a further delay looks likely.
Yesterday's session started at 9am to vet the privacy bill, the first of 10 bills in the queue for scrutiny.
People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip, a key figure in a filibuster on a controversial electoral bill last month, was out of the chamber when the meeting was adjourned. He accused pro-government lawmakers of lacking the will to help ensure passage of the government revamp after scandals about Leung erupted.
'If the government thinks that the social issues are more important, I think it is time to withdraw the restructuring proposal to help things return to normal again,' he said.
Tsang said he would ask lawmakers to continue the session on the weekend of July 7 and 8 and to agree to all-night meetings afterwards.
DAB lawmaker Lau Kong-wah said he agreed with this idea.
'When so much business remains on the table, we have to consider having all-night meetings.'
Ip, who drew up a roster among the pro-government camp during scrutiny of the electoral bill to ensure a quorum, said he had no plan to do it again.
'Last time was different,' he said. 'The pan-democrats boycotted the proceedings then, but this time it is the responsibility of both camps to ensure the meeting goes on.'
Scrutiny of the bills will continue tomorrow after a morning question-and-answer session.