Legco boss Jasper Tsang in bid to stop filibustering

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 12:06pm

The Legislative Council president yesterday unveiled two proposals to cut short filibusters, which some lawmakers use to try to stall government plans.

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing also pledged, at a spring luncheon with lawmakers and ministers, to "swiftly cut short filibustering every time it happens".

Tsang made a rare appearance yesterday at the Legco committee on rules of procedure, hours after radical lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, from the League of Social Democrats, said he would try to block passage of the government's budget - due to be announced tomorrow - if it failed to deliver on a universal retirement protection scheme.

Tsang's dual proposals involve tabling motions to set a time limit on an ongoing debate and to immediately end a filibuster. The motions will be put to the vote at Legco's agenda-setting House Committee and the full council.

The measures would take effect only after getting "overwhelming support" at both votes, Tsang said.

"We can decide on [the definition of overwhelming] support, whether it is 60 per cent, two thirds or an even larger proportion," he said.

Tsang also said he had only promised to end filibusters swiftly because officials were "apparently worried" about delays.

The proposals were not made in response to Leung's threats, he suggested. He hoped the committee would discuss the ideas.

Committee member and Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan expressed reservations.

"Filibustering is a means for lawmakers to resist draconian legislation," Lee said.

"If we are deprived of this right it is the same as weakening our right to defend the people's basic liberties."

Last week, People Power lawmakers Albert Chan Wai-yip and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen threatened to launch a filibuster if Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah did not give every permanent resident a cash handout of HK$10,000.

The People Power duo, along with Leung and other radical pan-democratic lawmakers, initiated a marathon filibuster last year by submitting more than 700 amendments to the budget bill in their fight for a universal pension.

Tsang ended the debate after 109 hours by citing rule 92 of the Legco rules of procedure, which authorises the president to act "as he thinks fit" in scenarios where no procedure has been set.