Bid to use special Legco powers to investigate HKTV case falters

When it comes to crunch, pro-government lawmakers fail to follow through on tough talk

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 October, 2013, 3:26am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 October, 2013, 3:26am

Pan-democrats have lost their initial attempt to invoke the legislature's powers to order an investigation into the government decision to deny Hong Kong Television Network a free-to-air television licence.

A motion to apply the Legco (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance was defeated 27 to 33 in the House Committee of the Legislative Council yesterday.

Most pro-establishment members who had spoken out strongly against the government's decision did not put their words into action. All of the "yes" votes came from pan-democrats.

Tabled by information technology representative Charles Mok, the motion was intended to force the government to produce all relevant papers involved in the vetting and approval of licence applications.

One lawmaker abstained, while seven others, including Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun and Labour Party pan-democrat Cyd Ho Sau-lan, neither voted nor abstained.

HKTV chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay said: "I'm very disappointed … Why are lawmakers not listening to public opinion that overwhelmingly supports the revelation [of documents]? Everyone wants to know the truth."

Mok will have a second chance to table the motion at the full council meeting on November 6.

However, the motion faces a higher threshold at the full meeting. Instead of the simple majority needed on the committee, Mok must achieve majority support in both geographical and functional constituencies, which have 35 legislators in each.

Earlier, Tien had failed to get his Beijing-loyalist allies to sign up to a petition with the pan-democratic camp to appeal for a licence for HKTV. Tien had also indicated that all five Liberal Party lawmakers would support the motion in principle.

Yesterday, he did not vote at all on the motion, and the other four Liberal lawmakers voted against it.

Ma Fung-kwok, lawmaker for sports, performing arts, culture and publication, abstained from the vote, despite having joined calls for an explanation of the rationale behind HKTV's fallout.

The motion failed despite a last-minute amendment by Mok limiting the scope of any disclosure of non-confidential files.

Beijing loyalists expressed concern over a looming judicial review and the Executive Council's confidentiality rule.

Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People's Party, who did not vote, said Exco's files and records risked being exposed by invoking the ordinance.

"A judicial review is the most effective way to force an official explanation," he said.

Wong will file a legal challenge in "two to three weeks".