Blame game on for lawmakers as budget bill debate postponed after filibuster

Government warns account could run dry as filibustering delays meeting for a week

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 April, 2014, 11:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 May, 2014, 6:07pm

Pro-establishment and pan-democratic lawmakers pointed fingers at each other yesterday after radical pan-democrats' filibustering on the budget bill succeeded in having the debate postponed for a week.

Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing expressed "extreme regret" after the debate was halted - just four hours after it started - as the Legislative Council was one member short of a quorum. "It is every member's responsibility to return to the chamber as promptly as possible when the quorum bell rings," a stern-faced Tsang said after the meeting was stopped with only 34 of 70 members in the chamber.

"It was particularly unacceptable for certain members to leave the chamber with no intention but to adjourn the meeting … It is most irresponsible." He was referring to the four radical pan-democrats, including two People Power lawmakers along with independent Wong Yuk-man and League of Social Democrats' Leung Kwok-hung, who triggered eight quorum bells.

There have been 1,192 amendments moved on the budget bill - most by the four radicals. Among their demands are a government seed fund for a universal pension scheme and a cash handout for all Hongkongers. The government has warned that the account for its operating expenses could dry up if the budget is not passed by the end of this month.

Tsang also blamed Leung, who he said "deliberately" left the chamber at the last second, leaving 34 lawmakers. But Leung said it was the Beijing-loyalists' responsibility to ensure there was a quorum. "The pro-government lawmakers have fallen short of their responsibilities. When I called for a quorum, Wong Kwok-hing left the chamber for a milk tea," said Leung, referring to the Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker. Wong hit back, saying he entered the chamber at the last 15 seconds of the quorum bell.

Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said: "We will review how to ensure the adequate presence of pro-government lawmakers."