'It doesn't matter; it's not a sin': Lawmaker with lowest Legco attendance unrepentant

Lawmaker Lau Wong-fat dismisses question about his poor attendance record at Legco, saying: 'It's not a sin, is it … it doesn't matter'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 4:57am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 5:33pm

Rural power broker Lau Wong-fat has topped the no-show charts across all three major bodies of the Legislative Council - after being identified as the least active member of the Legislative Council last year.

The city's oldest lawmaker - aged 77 - rarely figured at meetings of the Finance Committee, which has the final say on funding applications from the government. He attended just three out of 38 meetings - an 8 per cent attendance rate.

Lau also scored the lowest attendance rate on the House Committee, just 30 per cent. And his 83 per cent attendance at the regular full council meetings on Wednesdays saw him share first place on the no-show list with "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung - although the League of Social Democrats lawmaker was imprisoned for four weeks from June 9 for criminal damage and disorderly behaviour at a public forum in 2011.

Other lawmakers with poor attendance records said they had been deterred by filibustering campaigns - often spearheaded by Leung and designed to thwart the passage of government bills by dragging on sessions into the night.

However, Lau, a key figure in the Business and Professionals Alliance who represents the Heung Yee Kuk in Legco, did not offer an explanation when responding to a South China Morning Post inquiry. "It's not a sin, is it?" he said. "It doesn't matter. You just report it."

Last year, Lau attributed his absences from the Wednesday meetings over the 2012-13 session to ill health. His attendance record was again 83 per cent.

Lau, who has served as a lawmaker since 1985, raised eyebrows in December when he proposed his first ever amendment to a government bill. As chief of the kuk, the powerful body that looks after the interests of indigenous New Territories residents, Lau objected to the private land of villagers in Sai Wan, Sai Kung, being rezoned as country park, with all the development constraints that entailed.

The figures were provided by the Legco Secretariat but did not include the last week or so of meetings before Legco's summer break began on July 15. The new session begins in mid-October.

Dr Leung Ka-lau's overall attendance rate put him in second place to Lau. He made it to just 37 per cent of Finance Committee meetings and 61 per cent of House Committee sessions. "Usually, I am seeing my patients when I'm absent from Legco," said Lau, a surgeon representing the medical constituency.

Filibustering on the Finance Committee had also put him off, he said. "It's like tutorials. There are 10 tutorials, but I need to attend only three to get the gist of the bill." The budget bill and a funding request for the new-towns project in the northeastern New Territories were both subjected to the delaying tactic.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, of the Civic Party, also cited filibustering for his reduced presence - as well as his work on electoral reform and his heavy workload as a legislator. He was the joint fourth most frequent absentee on the Finance Committee, with a 58 per cent attendance rate.

"I have been preoccupied by the political reform this year," said Tong, who devoted much time to promoting his moderate reform plan. "I didn't attend the filibustering sessions and showed up only at the vote."

Tong also had the lowest attendance rates among three of the 18 Legco panels. He complained of having to sit on seven panels on behalf of his party and said he planned to review his workload and withdraw from one or two of the panels.

The overall attendance rate at full council meetings stands at 97 per cent up to July 3, comparable to the 97.94 per cent last year.

Additional reporting by Michelle Toh and Sarah Karacs