Growing discontent with Hong Kong's Legco performance

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 August, 2013, 5:40am


When the Legislative Council was expanded to 70 seats last year, hopes were high that the public would be better served and represented. While the jury is still out on whether a bigger Legco is better, there is growing discontent with lawmakers' performance over the past year. Ask anyone what their most vivid impression is and it is likely to be the disruption caused by a handful of rebels. Other lawmakers focus on narrow sectoral interests and political bickering. Overall, Legco performance still falls short of expectations.

While rival parties occasionally manage to put aside ideological differences to work on some livelihood issues, co-operation remains the exception rather than the norm. The expanded assembly appears to be even more fragmented, with fewer members willing to take up tedious work, such as drawing up legislative amendments. Some veterans continue to snub key meetings, as reported by this paper earlier. The public can be excused for feeling disappointed by such performance.

Part of the negative perception is perhaps attributed to the limited powers and confusing roles of Legco. Constitutionally, lawmakers hold the key to public spending and legislation. Nothing gets done without their approval. But while they are expected to provide checks and balance, they have little power to change government policy. Frustrated by these limitations, a handful of rebel lawmakers sometimes seek to achieve their agenda by dragging out procedures to the extreme. Although filibusters don't breach house rules, they only delay legislation without getting anything done. Little wonder that these actions are denounced by many as attempts to undermine the government simply to score political points.

Although only a few rebels have resorted to the extreme, their actions damage the overall image and credibility of Legco. If opinion polls are anything to go by, nearly half of the respondents in a University of Hong Kong survey in 2011 were dissatisfied with Legco's performance. Whether that perception has changed in the past two years has yet to be seen, but it would not be surprising if dissatisfaction had increased.

Universal suffrage for the legislature is just seven years away. With the Basic Law silent on the details, a heated debate is expected. It is in Legco's interest to brush up its image and credibility. Lawmakers are elected to serve the people. They can only discharge their duties with public trust and support.