Under-fire finance committee chief Ng Leung-sing blames treasury over funding backlog

Ng Leung-sing brushes off notions of stepping down after surviving a no-confidence vote

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 12:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 8:29am

Beleaguered Legislative Council Finance Committee chairman Ng Leung-sing dismissed suggestions that he should step down after he survived a no-confidence motion yesterday.

But he vowed to meet pan-democrats on how to resolve the backlog in the committee, with dozens of government proposals awaiting scrutiny before the legislative session ends next week.

The committee will hold a six-hour session tomorrow and is expected to add an eight-hour special meeting on Saturday to clear the backlog, which includes funding requests for such projects as the reconstruction of Queen Mary Hospital.

The no-confidence motion was tabled by League of Social Democrats chairman "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, who was released from jail on Saturday after serving four weeks for criminal damage and disorderly behaviour.

It came after Ng was accused of breaching Finance Committee procedures - most notably when he rushed through a vote on a controversial HK$340 million funding request for a new-towns project on June 27 while most pan-democrat lawmakers were out of their seats.

Refusing to step down after the no-confidence motion was voted down by pro-government lawmakers, Ng also dismissed a suggestion that he reshuffle the committee's agenda so lawmakers could vote on less controversial funding requests first.

"I have always asked officials from the [financial services and the treasury] bureau to reshuffle the proposals," he said. "I believe they have considered the matter carefully."

Moving the no-confidence motion, Leung said that in a series of meetings last month, Ng had repeatedly "unreasonably and unlawfully stopped lawmakers from tabling motions", while on June 27, he had "restricted the time for lawmakers to give speeches and ask questions" to just a minute each.

Pan-democrats complained that these decisions contravened Articles 37A and 46 of Finance Committee procedures. Respectively, these articles allow lawmakers to move motions, and dictate that before putting an item to the vote "the chairman shall ask members if they have any further questions".

At the height of the argument on June 27, pan-democrats left their seats to confront Ng over his restriction on their questions.

While they were out of their seats, Ng ordered the vote to begin with only two seated pan-democrats able to vote.

Ng insisted yesterday that although his chairing of meetings was "imperfect", he was "absolutely impartial".

Pro-establishment lawmaker Christopher Chung Shu-kun accused the pan-democrats of using smear tactics. Recalling Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels' mantra that "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it", he said: "Today the opposition has used this Nazi Party propaganda tactic."

Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said he was saddened by the Beijing-loyalist lawmakers' stance. "Legco was supposed to be a channel to narrow down differences and a platform to build consensus," he said.

The motion of no confidence was supported by 22 pan-democrats and opposed by 32 pro-establishment lawmakers.