Legco chief denies breaching impartiality

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 May, 2010, 12:00am

Legco President Tsang Yok-sing, under attack for saying he would resign the presidency to vote on the constitutional reform proposal, has denied he breached his election promise to remain impartial.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen meanwhile backed the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker, saying he was 'reflecting the general opinion of Hong Kong'.

Tsang Yok-sing said he had considered the idea because he might feel that the constitutional reform proposal would benefit Hong Kong and that his one vote would enable it to pass. But he has yet to decide whether the reform proposal is of vital interest for Hong Kong and hopes there will be no need for him to vote since it may affect Legco's image.

He rejected a charge by pan-democrats that he had breached his election promise to remain impartial. 'Precisely because I will not vote as president, that's why I would have to resign if I am to vote.

'I will never make any rash decision to resign and I value the chance to serve Hong Kong as Legco president. I will only do what it is absolutely necessary.'

The Basic Law stipulates that electoral reforms must be passed by a two-thirds majority of the 60-member Legco. Since it has long been a convention for the Legco president to abstain, the government will need at least four deserters among the 23 pan-democrats - who have all vowed to oppose the resolution.

But if Tsang resigns and whoever takes over is willing to break with protocol and vote, officials will only need three 'yes' votes from pan-democrats.

Tsang said whether the next president would break the convention of not voting was a decision that person would have to make.

Asked about Tsang Yok-sing's move, Donald Tsang said it would be the Legco president's own decision.

'But I believe he is reflecting the general public opinion of Hong Kong. That is, the hope that constitutional reform can move forward and not come to a standstill, allowing the 2012 proposal to be passed.'

Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee called on Tsang Yok-sing to resign not only as Legco president but from his Hong Kong Island constituency seat.

Democrat Lee Wing-tat said: 'He promised that he would not vote. He has lied to the people. Now we know he had a secret agenda - his political mission is to vote. He has no credibility. I have nothing to say if he has to act under Beijing's direction.'

Pan-democrats are demanding Tsang appear at a meeting of Legco's House Committee meeting to explain his position. Tsang said he would write to his colleagues to explain his stance.

Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said he would not rule out running for the presidency should Tsang resign. 'I will not vote if I am president, and since I oppose the reform proposal the abstention will count as an opposition vote.'

Fellow pan-democrats have asked the association to bar Fung from running.

Under Legco rules, when the president is unable to carry out his duty the chairman of the House Committee will stand in. But committee chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said the situation would be different if the president resigned. A new president would have to be elected.

The week-long nomination period for presidential candidates would have to be completed four days before election day. So if Tsang wanted to resign he would have to do so 11 days before the reform resolution was put to a vote.

Lau said: 'First we had lawmakers who resigned. Now even the president is resigning. People will question why everybody is resigning.' (Three lawmakers from the League of Social Democrats and two from the Civic Party resigned to trigger by-elections this month.)

Rules of procedure

The president shall hold office until the dissolution of the council

In the absence of the president ... there shall preside at the meeting the president's deputy (i.e. Legislative Council House Committee chairman); or in the absence of the president's deputy, the member who is elected by and from among the members present

The president's deputy or other member presiding shall enjoy all those powers conferred by these rules of procedure