POLITICS
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John Tsang Chun-Wah

Finance chief agrees to bid to end Legco logjam

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 5:45am

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah will meet four lawmakers this week to convince them to stop a week-long filibuster that has blocked the passage of the budget bill.

But the government would not yield to any of the four legislators' demands, which include a universal HK$10,000 cash handout and a consultation for a universal pension scheme, an administration source said.

The annual appropriations bill has been stalled for more than a week in a Legislative Council filibuster after the League of Social Democrats' "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and three People Power lawmakers raised more than 700 amendments.

Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing compressed the amendments into 147 debates, but only four of those debates had been completed after six days of meetings.

Last Saturday, the four lawmakers requested a meeting with John Tsang, who confirmed last night that the meeting would be held this week.

We are willing to hear the government's difficulties and we are open to options. We could stop the filibustering bid if he accepts any one of our two demands
People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip

"We are willing to hear the government's difficulties and we are open to options," said People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip. "We could stop the filibustering bid if he accepts any one of our two demands."

But a government source said it had been made clear to the lawmakers that the government would not make any concessions.

"We only want to do our utmost to convince them that the filibustering must stop," the source said.

If this week's meeting fails to bring a breakthrough, the stalemate could pave the way for Legco's president to exercise his power to halt the debate.

He consulted the lawmakers on the issue last Friday, but no decision has yet been made.

The source said some government initiatives would probably be affected by the filibuster, because the budget bill was unlikely to be passed by May 15.

"[The] electricity subsidy is most likely to be delayed. Extra allowances to recipients of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme might also be affected," the source said.