Meeting budget deadline impossible, Jasper Tsang warns

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 5:24am

The budget bill could not be passed by Wednesday even if the weeks-long filibuster ended, Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said last night.

Officials have warned that funding for public services would be disrupted the next day.

Tsang said the bill could not be tabled for a final vote unless the four filibustering lawmakers withdrew the 700 amendments delaying it.

Otherwise, even if the filibuster ended - an option legislators are expected to discuss today - the proposed amendments would still have to be tabled for a vote one by one. This made it impossible for the bill to be voted on by Wednesday, Tsang said.

"I have come up with … ideas [to handle the situation]. I must … consult [all opinions]," he said.

Lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said he believed Tsang would announce that he was putting an end to the filibuster, which would be followed by time for lawmakers to discuss it.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah wrote on his blog that electricity subsidies and public-housing rent waivers scheduled for July to September would be delayed, adding the filibuster was "unbearable".

The filibustering lawmakers - from pro-democracy radical groups People Power and the League of Social Democrats - had hoped to use the tactic to secure a universal pension scheme.

Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit opposed any move to end the filibuster, saying it would be contrary to public interest. "Each time a filibuster is ended [by the Legco president], it diminishes Legco's power. In the end, we wouldn't be able to be good gatekeepers for Hongkongers," he said.

Pro-government Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin asked the four lawmakers to drop the filibuster themselves.

Even the Equal Opportunities Commission, a statutory body, has stepped into the debate. Chairman Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said the salaries of the body's 80 staff were at risk.

People Power's filibustering lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said: "It is the government, not us, that is reluctant to solve the problem."