Hong Kong’s lawmakers deserve a pay cut and punishment for behaving like infants and failing to fulfil basic duties

Yonden Lhatoo says we may laugh at their antics in the legislature but there’s nothing funny about wasting taxpayers’ money on people not doing their jobs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 March, 2016, 4:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 March, 2016, 5:37pm

I have to say I’m glad Hong Kong’s lawmakers won’t be getting a basic pay rise when the new legislature is elected in September. Frankly speaking, they don’t deserve it, the way they’ve been carrying on over the past year.

But they’ll be compensated for it with a generous pay bump when it comes to operating expenses.

While their monthly salary will remain unchanged at just over HK$93,000, annual reimbursement for expenses such as employing assistants and renting offices will be raised by 7 per cent to HK$2.55 million. A term-based allowance for information technology expenses will be increased by 50 per cent to HK$375,000.

That’s a lot of taxpayers’ hard-earned money for a bunch of people who are mostly very well off, if not already rich. Many of them treat their Legislative Council job as a part-time gig for pocket money and prestige, and can hardly be bothered to attend meetings and discharge the duties they were elected to perform.

Dysfunction is the name of the game. Just look at all the bloody-minded, spite-driven filibustering over the past year by pan-democrats blocking government policies just for the heck of it.

Nothing gets done because of this debilitating political divide, and we’re all quite sick of the quorum-counting charades played out in the chamber with infantile abandon by grown men and women on taxpayers’ time.

It’s bad enough that the pan-democrats deliberately boycott meetings so that sessions have to be suspended. But it’s just as condemnable that many pro-establishment lawmakers can’t be bothered to fight back by turning up for meetings themselves. They already have the numbers to meet the quorum counts. What’s their excuse, really?

But logic flies in the face of the prepubescent behaviour that has reduced elected representatives of the people to such abysmal lows as squabbling over lift buttons being pressed for every floor in the Legco building to prevent each other from getting to meetings on time.

All the yelling, banana throwing and ghetto-style melodrama has a tired and hollow ring to it these days. It’s a lame, meaningless dance, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, as Shakespeare would have said.

We all might laugh at it, but there’s nothing funny about the millions we pay these people and the billions at stake because of the backlog of bills and funding proposals they have failed to clear.

While we go about upgrading the Hong Kong Institute of Education to a university, maybe we should downgrade our legislature to the kindergarten status that it deserves.

And just as children are punished for misbehaving and throwing tantrums, so should some of these overaged school kids. We can’t make them stand in a corner or go to bed without dinner, but docking their pay for playing truant would be a good start.

Students are penalised if they don’t attend a minimum number of classes and people who don’t turn up for work lose their jobs. What makes our politicians so special that they should operate under different rules?

Impeach repeat offenders. Better still, send them to that gulag for South Asians – I mean detention centre for asylum seekers – that legislator and former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has proposed building. It’s a vile idea to begin with, but can be turned around to provide a fitting service for politicians.

As the saying goes, “Politicians and diapers have one thing in common – they both should be changed regularly and for the same reason.”

Come September, I’ll be thinking of that when I go to vote.

Yonden Lhatoo is a senior editor at the Post