Legco chief rejects pan-dems' two-thirds vote plan to end budget filibuster

Pan-democrats' suggestion to end filibuster through lawmakers' votes instead of Legco chief's individual decision violates Basic Law: Tsang

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 10:26am

The Legislative Council president has sparked new controversy after he rejected pan-democrats' suggestion that any bid to end a filibuster should require two-thirds of lawmakers' votes.

This would violate the Basic Law, said Jasper Tsang Yok-sing after appearing on a television talk show yesterday.

Tsang's remarks were made in light of last week's events, where he ended a weeks-long filibuster delaying the budget bill.

He ended the filibuster after consulting lawmakers in a two-hour closed-door meeting last Monday, and his decision was not put to a vote in the Legco.

Yesterday, quoting the Basic Law annex regulating the Legco's voting procedures, Tsang said the passage of motions introduced by individual lawmakers required more than half the votes in each geographical and functional constituency.

"It can't suddenly become a two-third passage for a motion to end a debate. This is contrary to the Basic Law," he said.

When asked whether he himself should table a motion to end the filibuster and put it to vote, Tsang said that was also against Legco rules.

He cited a court judgment last year on a judicial review sought by League of Social Democrats lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung after Tsang ended Leung's filibuster.

"The view of the court was that, when I decided to end that debate session [last year], I was not making up rules with the method I specifically relied on at that time," he said.

"If I had said, 'I'll now give you all a motion to end the debate to be passed with a two-third majority,' I would have been making up rules contrary to the rules of procedures."

Barrister and Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah also said putting a motion to a vote for the support of two-thirds of lawmakers could be against the Basic Law.

"Why don't we put [it] to [a] vote separately at the [geographical and functional constituency level]? It is still better than [having Tsang] making the decision arbitrarily," he said.

People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip, one of those who launched the filibuster, disagreed with the proposal to let lawmakers vote for or against motions to end a filibuster.

While this was the practice adopted by legislatures overseas, he said, it was not suitable for Hong Kong as the city's legislature structure was different.

Leung said he would consider carefully whether to go to court again to seek to overturn Tsang's move to stop the filibuster.

Pro-establishment lawmakers have asked Tsang to halt all remaining debate relating to the budget bill by tomorrow, and to proceed with the final voting.

Tsang did not say if he would adopt the same strategies if pro-democracy legislators insisted on giving speeches tomorrow.