Anson Chan

Political warhorses leave the field

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 July, 2008, 12:00am

Tears and tributes as lawmakers take their final bows at a record sitting

After a record 62-hour sitting, lawmakers finally wrapped up the latest Legislative Council session yesterday with laughter, tears and some parting shots.

Among those who stole the limelight at the end of a five-day meeting were Martin Lee Chu-ming, Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Legco president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who have decided not to seek re-election in September.

Mr Lee cited Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' quote as he described his desire for democracy, in his swansong speech. He was probably surprised to hear, during the valedictory motion, that he would be suddenly sorely missed by long-time allies and foes alike - a rare occasion for members to air their feelings over the four-year term.

He received praise from both sides of the political spectrum for his 'fearless dedication' to the principles of democracy.

He said he had no intention of stepping away from politics to spare himself criticism.

'I don't fear labels, or being called such and such,' he said, pledging to continue striving for real universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen paid tribute to Mr Lee.

'Martin, don't worry. We will have universal suffrage. Let us make a date for 2017 and 2020, and let's cast our votes together,' he said.

In a rare departure from the rules of procedure, Mrs Fan closed the last Legco proceedings she will preside over by quoting from a poem: 'Allow us to wave our hands, and say words of farewell. Take care, goodbye. If the fates are with us, may we meet again.'

Mrs Fan, who has become a Standing Committee member of the National People's Congress, also offered a word of advice to her successor. 'The president should not be afraid of being sued in court,' she said, referring to the growing number of judicial reviews against the president's ruling.

So why would she not seek re-election? 'Because I recently realised that I, too, have started to doze off, ' she said. 'I can't not step down now. What if the cameras catch me dozing off?'

She won praise from all sides for her handling of protests by 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung during Legco proceedings.

Mrs Chan said being an elected lawmaker had taught her how to see things better from the public's point of view, and she would cherish the past eight months.

She also praised lawmakers' efforts that went unseen behind the scenes, especially during scrutiny of government bills, and added: 'It's a pity that because of constitutional constraints at the moment, the fact that you need a majority vote in both chambers ... frequently, perfectly legitimate and good suggestions ... simply do not get passed.'

Choy So-yuk of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong remembered former party chairman Ma Lik, who died last year.

With tears in her eyes, she said she missed Ma's guidance. 'This is something I really miss. That brotherly feeling, like we were family.'

The 62-hour sitting that began on Wednesday was the longest since the handover, when the July 1997 final session took more than 80 hours.