Hopeless and hunting for Stephen Lam's gold
More than 100 groups and individuals had their day before a Legislative Council panel yesterday to give their views on the government's plan to scrap by-elections.
But this was not just the usual crowd of politicians, youth groups and academics. Many were from little-known bodies with names guaranteed to brighten up the dullest Legco gathering, such as the Snake Vegetable Mooncake Joint Union and the Bolshevik Bourgeoisie Policy Institute.
Others had sarcastic names, such as the Research Group of Stephen Lam's Treasure, Top Officials' Heart and Lung Functions Concern Group and Hong Kong Hopeless.
Some of them chose novel ways of expressing their opinions - by staying silent or by pouring water over themselves.
The government proposes that when a directly elected legislator resigns, dies or is disqualified from office, the next-best-placed candidate in the constituency at the previous election replace the person, regardless of political affiliation.
The move follows by-elections triggered last year by pan-democrats who resigned in a vain attempt to make the vote a 'referendum' on democracy.
Supporters of the measure said it was needed to stop a repeat of last year's by-elections, which cost HK$120 million, were boycotted by most parties and saw the five who resigned their seats re-elected easily.
Opponents said the proposal deprived voters of their rights and might breach the Basic Law.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung disagreed. He said the mini-constitution empowered the city government to enact electoral provisions.
'Therefore it is for the government to propose a bill and for the legislature to decide whether or not to support and to enact [it],' Lam said.