Wong Yuk-man

Pan-democrats should back filibuster over divisive bills

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Two legislative proposals that would have an impact on people's democratic rights and freedoms could become law soon if they are passed by the Legislative Council after scheduled second and third readings this month.

The Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2012 and the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2011 - the first aims to bar by-elections while the latter has been dubbed the 'Article 23 of the cyber world' - are being put through the final process in Legco.

The Legco amendment bill concerns the arrangement to fill vacancies in Legco and district councils, while the copyright bill seeks to allow the government to make copyright infringement in electronic media a criminal act.

Both bills affect the core values of Hong Kong. Thus, the pan-democrats and those who support democracy should be making a serious effort to fight them.

So it's most disappointing to see that only members of People Power and the League of Social Democrats - including Wong Yuk-man, Albert Chan Wai-yip and 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung - have vowed to deploy filibuster tactics to obstruct house consideration of the bills and prevent a vote while mainstream pan-democrats have unconditionally surrendered.

On the surface, the copyright bill seems to protect copyright, but its real objective is to stifle creative freedom and restrict freedom of expression, especially targeting political parodies and derivative works.

Pan-democrats say now they will vote against the bill, but that's only because they know they don't have enough votes to block it. Some are still willing to bargain with the government on technical details, supporting an amendment that they hope would lessen the bill's impact on personal freedoms and rights.

Any compromise would be a gesture of surrender. In a serious political or social struggle, those involved should not negotiate with the opposition. It's only through standing firm that we can motivate public participation to force changes. It's wrong of the pan-democrats to give up without a fight.

Wong and Chan have filed over 1,000 amendments to the bill in the hope of delaying proceedings to gain time.

Such filibuster tactics are not uncommon in legislative assemblies. Pan-democrats may be at a disadvantage in Legco, but they could still employ different tactics to fight or delay the passage of unpopular bills. Even if they don't succeed, they could still spoil the party for the government.

But the split among pan-democrats on an action plan shows they are no different from their rivals. They seem to admit defeat at the most critical moments, handing over victory to the government and pro-establishment camp.

Some oppose using filibuster tactics in this case. The Democratic Party says the amendment proposals are not good enough. If they think that, why haven't they put forward their own amendments? The party certainly has more resources than People Power and the League of Social Democrats. But, instead, they chose to stand on the sidelines and complain. It shows they have no political morals.

There are already attempts within Legco to shorten the time needed to consider the huge number of amendments for the bill, in an effort to counter the filibuster.

No matter what the political obstacles - whether for the bill to bar by-elections, the attempt to enact the 'Article 23 of the cyber world', the competition law or even a proposal to boost the governance structure - if the pan-democrats put their foot down and insist on using delaying tactics, they could force the government to compromise.

There are only two months left in this legislative year. If the bill is not passed this time, it will have to go through the entire legislative process again next year.

The pan-democrats have used filibuster tactics before, so why can't they do it again? If they don't stand on the side of the masses, they will, without doubt, be punished in the Legco election in September.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator.