Filibuster motion is stifled by debate

Four hours of discussion on making alterations to finance committee procedures ends in threat by People Power to move '1,000 amendments'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 3:33am

The pro-establishment camp's attempt yesterday to block filibusters on the Legislative Council Finance Committee became mired in a long debate about how to amend the body's procedures.

People Power, which opposed the move, also threatened to counter-attack by raising nearly 1,000 amendments to Ip Kwok-him's proposal to limit legislators to moving no more than one motion without prior notice.

At the end of a four-hour meeting, the committee failed to reach a conclusion on setting up rules to amend the procedures and will take up the issue again next month.

Ip, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, sought to block filibusters after People Power used the tactic in summer in an effort to force the government to put off scrutiny of a controversial administration restructuring plan.

The Finance Committee has no rules stipulating how to amend its procedures.

Committee chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan proposed requiring five working days for a member to notify the committee in advance to move a motion to amend the procedures, and two working days for others to move an amendment to the motion.

"We can vote on [my proposal] next time and I will give you time to prepare amendments [to my proposal]," Cheung said. He said lawmakers could file their amendments by Friday.

Pan-democratic legislators urged Cheung to write down his proposal for them to circulate.

People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said: "[People Power] is ready for a war … We have prepared nearly 1,000 amendments on Ip's motion."

Fellow party member Albert Chan Wai-yip said he planned to table more than 200 amendments to Ip's proposal.

That meant the committee would take at least six hours to finish the meeting, he estimated.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun went a step further. "If the pro-establishment camp insists on resorting to such an extreme means [to limit legislators' right to speak], we can filibuster for the entire four-year Legco term," he said. "We can spend all the Finance Committee meetings on filibusters."

Fellow Democrat Emily Lau Wai-hing added: "It is draconian. The Democratic Party will try our best to derail the proposal … We will fight against it."

Ip said his amendment aimed only to block filibustering, and would still allow lawmakers to speak unlimited times before voting on an item.

"Pan-democrats have been twisting my idea, saying it limits [chances] to speak, but even if my amendment is passed, the opportunity still exists for … continuous and repeated speeches."