Chance for Legco to make fresh start

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 July, 2011, 12:00am


Lawmakers will bid farewell to the iconic Legislative Council building in Central after wrapping up their last sitting this week. They will move to the new complex in Tamar following the summer recess, bringing down the curtain on the stage for many a political drama over the last quarter of a century. Over the years, the seat of power has seen politicians and officials come and go. But they have left their legacies. Their decisions still have an impact on our life today. This is where history was made and our city's future is being shaped.

The 99-year-old colonial-style building is a declared monument. It has served as the cradle for democracy. This is where Hong Kong's politics came of age. Once dominated by members of the elite, appointed by the governor to rubber-stamp policies and legislation, the legislature ushered in the first democratic elections decades ago. Now the council is fully elected, with representation from a wide range of interests from across the political spectrum.

Every week, politicians and officials meet to discuss a broad range of issues of public concern. They make important decisions and pass laws after debating their merits - and drawbacks. They do not see eye to eye on every issue, but they push for the political values they represent, seeking to win each other over with their eloquence and the power of their reasoned arguments. In more recent times, Legco has seen banana-throwing and other stunts which have distracted from the debate and gone beyond what is acceptable in our legislature.

The building has also, at times, witnessed an outpouring of emotion and been a target for protest. On the stroke of midnight on July 1, 1997, crowds of supporters watched pro-democracy lawmakers on the council's balcony, where they vowed to return after being thrown off the 'through train' beyond handover. Last year, thousands of activists surrounded the building when Legco held a 25-hour-long meeting vetting the Hong Kong-Shenzhen high speed rail funding.

A new chapter will begin when Legco moves to the Tamar complex in September. Hopefully, reforms will make it more representative and allow legislators to make a meaningful contribution to policymaking and governance.

Legco should be a source of fresh ideas for Hong Kong. This would help boost public confidence in our politicians. At present people's satisfaction levels are disappointingly low, with a recent survey showing those happy with their performance dipped to only 10 per cent. It is imperative Legco improves people's negative perception in the run-up to 2020, when the legislature is set to be returned via universal suffrage. It would be a mockery of people's democratic aspirations if a democratically elected political body were to remain one of the least popular public institutions.