Even goodbye wasn't unanimous

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 July, 2011, 12:00am


It was a case of thanks for the memories yesterday as lawmakers looked back at life in the old Legislative Council building and forward to their new home.

But it wasn't all plain sailing. True to Legco's fractious history, even in a motion bidding farewell to the Central building there was one vote against and two abstentions.

For independent councillor Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, the stand-out Legco moment was forgetting to lock a toilet door, only to be embarrassed by a - judiciously unnamed - female legislator.

But it is the transformation of the city's mini-parliamentary culture that has struck long-serving liberal party legislator Miriam Lau Kin-yee the most.

'In the past, almost all meetings were held behind closed doors. Today, almost all are open to the public,' she said.

'In the past, seniority mattered. Longer-serving legislators formed the core. Today ... everyone is equal. No one cares about experience.'

After 26 years in the service of the city's top lawmaking body, the building is to return to its former function as the Court of Final Appeal - or the Supreme Court, as it was called under British rule. Pan-democrats said the move as tinged with regret.

'The building served as our legislature for 26 years, but the functional constituencies still remain today,' said labour activist Lee Cheuk-yan.

The normally calm and collected Ronny Tong Ka-wah of the Civic Party became all emotional as he touched on Hong Kong's democratic progress over the years.

'I dare not say the goddess of justice on the building's roof feels gratified. When the Legislative Council moves to the new complex,' (Tong paused, sobbing), 'I just hope...' (another few seconds of silence), 'the new building can see the day of democracy.' Then the time-counting bell rang, and he sat down.

Tong's party colleague Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee was defiant to the last and voted against the farewell motion. 'To enter the new building, we'll need to pass through the government's central complex, which is a breach of the independence between executive and legislative branches,' the lawmaker for the legal sector reasoned.

Veteran Democrat James To Kun-sun and relative newcomer from the Civic Party Tanya Chan abstained, expressing concern over the pace of progress towards full democracy in the city.

But like it or not, these 60 honourable members will gather instead at the new Tamar site at neighbouring Admiralty from September.