Vow to block politically inspired by-elections
Officials have vowed to plug what they see as a legal loophole allowing lawmakers to trigger a so-called referendum through by-elections, though the Basic Law provision protecting the right to stand in election remains an obstacle.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung yesterday told the legislature: 'It is clear in citizens' eyes that lawmakers should not resign casually and trigger by-elections that waste public money. The issue is not if the government should block the loophole, but how to block it.'
Five lawmakers from the League of Social Democrats and the Civic Party resigned in January to trigger by-elections last month, which they viewed as a de facto referendum on the pace and scope of democratisation. The government has estimated that the by-elections cost HK$159 million.
Lam said the government's priority now was passage of its constitutional reform package. The loophole would not be tackled before mid-July.
A government ally, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, proposed allowing lawmakers to resign once only, but Lam said this would not be a sufficient impediment.