'Give Legco powers to halt filibuster' says Labour stalwart

Labour Party stalwart says lawmakers and not the legislature president should decide whether or not to cut short the delaying tactic

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 3:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 10:43am

The power to cut short a filibuster in the Legislative Council should lie with lawmakers and not the legislature president, a pan-democrat said yesterday after the latest filibuster, this time aimed at delaying passage of the budget bill, began on Wednesday.

Labour Party stalwart Lee Cheuk-yan proposed that a vote by two-thirds of lawmakers should be enough to end a filibuster, an obstructive tactic used to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote. That would allow 24 lawmakers, or one-third plus one, to veto any motion proposing to end a filibuster.

Pan-democrats have accused Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing of abusing his power after he ended a marathon filibuster of the budget bill by radical pan-democrats last year. Tsang said Legco procedural rule 92 empowered the president to make unilateral decisions in situations for which there are no existing applicable Legco rules. Pan-democrats have disputed that interpretation.

"Filibusters nowadays have become more like a formula. It will be cut short by the Legco president after a period of time," Lee said. "This makes them meaningless.

"Taking that power [to halt filibusters] from the president could retain the power of filibusters. Pan-democrats [who occupy more than one-third of Legco seats] could still use filibusters as a means to fight legislating for Article 23 [of the Basic Law] in the future," said Lee, referring to the controversial anti-subversion bill which is widely viewed as a threat to rights and freedoms.

Four radical pan-democrats began another round of their marathon filibuster of the budget bill on Wednesday.

One of their key demands behind the protest, which saw them file hundreds of amendments to the bill, is that the government create a pension scheme for all Hongkongers. But debate was suspended after four hours as the chamber was one member short of forming a quorum.

Pan-democrats will meet on Friday to discuss Lee's plan.

Beijing-friendly lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said pan-democrats had so far not been enthusiastic about how to deal with filibusters.

"If they enjoy the right to halt filibusters [under Lee's plan], they would be blamed by Hongkongers if they refused to cut a filibuster short," Wong said.

"But they would also be attacked by radicals for betrayal if they support the closure motion [to end filibusters]. That's why they have been hiding away from the discussion."