Lawmakers finally vote to back HK$2b Tseung Kwan O landfill extension

Proposal moves to Finance Committee as chairman accused of acting like 'dictator' in ruling out dozens of' irrelevant' motions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 May, 2014, 2:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 7:53am

Environment officials scored a bitter victory yesterday when lawmakers finally voted to fund a controversial extension of the landfill at Tseung Kwan O.

The Legislative Council's public works subcommittee voted 16 to 9 to approve the government's request for HK$2 billion in funding after chairman Lo Wai-kwok ended a filibuster attempt by ruling that dozens of motions submitted for debate were irrelevant.

His decision infuriated pan-democrats on the committee, who accused Lo of behaving like a "dictator" and blocking debate.

Legco's Finance Committee will now vote on the proposal.

The government says the extension is necessary because the city's landfill sites are approaching capacity, but NeoDemocrats lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai tabled a series of motions attaching conditions to the funding in an attempt to delay the vote.

Fan, whose Legco constituency includes Tseung Kwan O, wants the government to do more to reduce the generation of waste, and to take action to reduce the environmental effect on the landfill's neighbours.

Lo, of the Business and Professionals Alliance, yesterday allowed 16 motions from Fan to be voted on, but rejected 24 more as breaching committee rules. He allowed Fan to consolidate the 24 rejected motions into four.

"It is my duty to strike a balance between the rights of the members to table motions and the efficient functioning of this subcommittee," Lo said yesterday. He cited a ruling by Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, who last month rejected more than 1,000 amendments to the government budget bill. Many were ruled out on the grounds that they were "sequential" - they changed the amount of funds allocated to a particular item of spending by different amounts.

Tsang said variations to each item of funding should be covered by a single amendment. To the fury of Fan and his allies, Lo ruled that the same applied to the motions Fan had tabled.

Fan said Tsang's ruling should only apply to amendments to bills, rather than funding requests, while the Democratic Party's Wu Chi-wai said some motions deemed to be "sequential" had been put to a vote at earlier meetings and Lo did not act.

Civic Party lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said the ruling was like something from a dictatorship, and said Lo had selectively exercised his power to limit the rights of members.

"Are we in Beijing, the National People's Congress or North Korea?" Chan asked.

Legco legal adviser Jimmy Ma said that while the president's ruling could not directly apply to motions that were not amendments to bills, he still believed the rationale behind the ruling could apply to other committees.

The committee will see a further filibuster attempt next week when it debates a request for HK$18 billion for a waste incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau. People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip has already tabled 18 motions on the plan.

Lo rejected Fan's request to change the committee's agenda to discuss other items before the waste plans. He said it was up to the government to decide in what order funding requests should be debated, and that the administration had rejected changing the line-up. Officials have warned the redevelopment of Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam may have to be retendered if the delay continues.