Budget bill finally passed after 130-hour filibuster

At the end of 14 days of talks, legislators last night ended debate on 1,192 amendments that threatened to cost taxpayers HK$2.25m a day

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 June, 2014, 4:48am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 9:07am

The marathon budget debate finally came to a close last night - after 130 hours of talks - ending a filibuster that opponents had said could cost taxpayers some HK$2.25 million a day.

The budget bill was passed by a vote of 36 to 3, with one abstention, after the last of the 1,192 amendments - mainly put forward by three radical pan-democrats - was voted down around 12.40pm yesterday.

Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing had predicted earlier last night that the debate on the bill, which was spread over 14 days, would be finished by the end of the meeting.

The filibuster was launched by "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, and Albert Chan Wai-yip and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen of People Power. They wanted to force the government to accept their demands for a universal pension scheme and cash handouts for Hongkongers.

Both parties adopted similar tactics last year to delay the passage of the budget bill. In a controversial move, Tsang invoked a house rule to force a vote after a lengthy debate of more than 120 hours across 13 days.

During the debate earlier yesterday, Starry Lee Wai-king, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), argued that the legislature could not monitor the government properly by means of filibustering, as claimed by the pan-democrats.

"It only disrupts the normal proceedings of the legislature and weakens the powers of the legislature to monitor the government," said Lee.

She criticised the pan-democrats for "hijacking the legislature" with their filibuster.

Tsang was also a target of criticism at yesterday's debate, with some pro-establishment legislators attacking him for earlier praising the radical pan-democrats for the "professionalism" shown in their filibuster.

Chan Han-pan, of the DAB, said: "Whatever those filibustering say or do, they are playing dirty tricks."

Leung Kwok-hung admitted the filibuster may have been an unreasonable approach, but said: "Under such an absurd system, there is no other way but to use an absurd way."

Yesterday's meeting was disrupted when Lee Cheuk-yan, who also chairs the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, asked councillors to observe a minute's silence to mourn those killed in the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Tsang told Lee that the observation was not in line with the rules of the house, but Lee continued, and Tsang adjourned the meeting.

Tsang and other pro-establishment legislators walked out of the chamber as the pandemocrats observed a minute's silence and chanted slogans inside the chamber.