Ins and outs of a filibuster at work

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2012, 12:00am


Debate on a controversial electoral bill got off to a slow start yesterday in the face of a filibuster by radical lawmakers who added to the effect of their 1,300 amendments by wielding the rules on quorums.

People Power legislators Albert Chan Wai-yip and Wong Yuk-man were trying to force an adjournment under a rule that there must be 30 of the 60 members present at all times and the meeting must be stopped if this is not met within 15 minutes of a summons to legislators to attend.

They were helped by the 16 pan-democrats who left the chamber every time an amendment was tabled, increasing the risk that the quorum would not be met.

No less than 20 summons were demanded.

The filibuster, which Chan has estimated could run for 500 hours, has already forced four committee meetings on Friday and Saturday to be cancelled or postponed. Chan and Wong want the bill, which would prevent lawmakers who resign from standing in a by-election for six months, to be withdrawn.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah of the Civic Party said the filibuster was a result of 'political persecution'. 'If the government takes away citizens' right to vote and to stand for election, it will only force the opposition to resort to more radical means, as they are doing today,' he said.

The bill was introduced to prevent a repetition of the 'de facto referendum' on political reform - the by-election forced after five pan-democrat lawmakers resigned in 2010 and then contested their same seats.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said before the meeting that he respected the People Power lawmakers' viewpoints, and would sit through the meeting.

Legco's Committee on Rules of Procedures will meet next Tuesday to discuss whether to amend the rules with a view to stopping the filibuster.