Legislative Council

No filibustering or lawmakers throwing things? Children’s guide to Legislative Council mocked for being unrealistic

Publication is aimed at teaching youngsters what the legislature is all about, but one reader insists Legco meetings are for throwing things

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 October, 2016, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 October, 2016, 11:21pm

What do children want to be these days when they grow up? A lawmaker who makes rules to punish people who “throw litter”, according to a children’s book published by the Legislative Council Commission.

The book – titled “I Want to be a Legislative Council Member!” – which links the life experiences of the protagonist, a boy called Ben, with the importance of laws in a community and the work of the Legislative Council – is part of a series of educational materials produced by Legco. The series also includes a game that lets children plan a daily timetable as a legislator.

But the book and game, both available for browsing and sale at the Legislative Council Complex, have drawn criticism from parents, educators and even a legislator.

Bergman Li, a father of two, mocked the game, which asks students to create a timetable from activities such as attending a Finance Committee meeting and chairing a transport panel session, for not being truly reflective of what lawmakers do.

“There hasn’t been a proper meeting for three weeks,” he said, referring to the current deadlock in the Legislative Council. This comes as the Legco president prevents two localist lawmakers-electfrom retaking their oaths and taking part in meetings after their first attempt, during which they insulted China and referred to Hong Kong as a “nation”, was ruled to be invalid.

“Legco meetings are for throwing things,” five-year-old Farah, Li’s eldest child, quickly chimed in.

The father explained that his daughter gained her knowledge from what she saw on television programmes, adding that she lost interest in the book after reading just two pages with him.

The father also noted that the book contained information that might “mislead” children.

He said that the book focused on how lawmakers could approve building plans and help with problems such as light pollution but did not elaborate much on the process of drafting bills and discussing them in meetings.

“This can cause children to think that being a legislator is omnipotent and you can get anything you ask the government for,” Li said.

Claudia Mo Man-ching, a lawmaker herself, pointed to a short story in the book, in which students were “shouting” while a fictitious legislator was trying to tell students about his work.

Mo said she was appalled that the “rude” behaviour was included in the story and even praised by the lawmaker, who called the students’ response “good”.

“This conveys a wrong message that it is fine to interrupt other people when they are talking,” she said.

Mo also criticised a section in which the story’s fictitious legislator commends the protagonist for saying he must have “good grades” and “do things according to rules” to become a lawmaker.

“What if those are bad rules ... I feel there is a bit of brainwashing here,” she said.

On the standard of English used in the bilingual book, Dr Anne Ma, a senior lecturer in the department of English language education at the Education University, said the language used was “unnatural” appeared to be a direct translation from Chinese.

Referring to the sentence, “It’s wrong to throw litter.”, the lecturer explained that beside the fact that the sentence was not native, there was a semantic difference between “throwing litter” and “littering”.

She elaborated that it was not wrong to “throw litter” – which could mean disposing of rubbish in a trash can – but only not right to “litter” – which indicates getting rid of rubbish in inappropriate places.