Move to end filibustering in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council

Chairman of the Legco’s committee on rules of procedure also wants to see penalty system introduced for ‘unparliamentary behaviour’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 11:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 11:27pm

Pro-establishment lawmakers are pushing for changes to stop filibustering in the legislature and introduce a penalty system for misbehaviour, now that the voting power of the pan-democratic camp has been diminished by the recent disqualification of two localists.

Paul Tse Wai-chun, chairman of the Legislative Council’s ­committee on rules of procedure, told the media on Wednesday that members would meet in January to discuss the filibustering issue.

“We want to prevent colleagues from prolonging debates unnecessarily by calling the quorum bell, making adjournment motions, and speaking with unlimited time allowed,” Tse said. “The secretariat has been researching into foreign practice for us to discuss.”

They will look into ideas such as limiting the length of time before starting a debate, or allowing a member to move a motion to close a marathon debate

For “serious” matters such as a national security bill, exemption from the restrictions could be given, Tse added.

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Any changes to the rules of procedure will need majority support in both the geographical and functional constituencies. The disqualification of localist pair Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching for improper oath-taking has raised the chance of success for Tse, as the pan-democrats are left with a margin of only one vote – 17 to 16 – in the number of geographical seats.

Tse denied the camp was “taking advantage” of the situation, saying there had long been calls to halt filibustering.

Kenneth Leung, a pan-

democrat and vice-chairman of the committee, said his camp had long opposed measures to curb the freedom to debate in the Legislative Council.

He noted the risk of having a thin margin to block the vote, and said members would be “cautious” and make sure they would be present at the vote.

Tse and his allies are also pushing for a third localist to be kicked out of the legislature for turning national flags upside down in the chamber.

He will table a motion to censure Cheng Chung-tai, and also wants a penalty system for “unparliamentary behaviour” in ­Legco that will include fines and bans from meetings to punish ­unruly members.

Time spent on Legco filibustering doubles this year

Tse said Cheng had violated his oath when he upended the small national flags that members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong had displayed at their seats on October 19, after they staged a walkout with their allies to ­prevent Youngspiration’s Leung and Yau from retaking their oaths. “He inverted the national flags – it was an insult and he should be disqualified,” Tse said.

“Unless he makes a public apology, we should take the motion debate as an opportunity to discuss what’s right and wrong.”

While the motion is likely to be defeated because Tse’s camp does not have enough votes to pass it, Cheng blamed his political opponents for an “ideological struggle” in the legislature.

“I’m not worried,” the Civic Passion lawmaker said.

Another pro-establishment lawmaker, Ma Fung-kwok, said on Wednesday he had filed a report to police about “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, who threw luncheon meat at his political opponents last month.

Police are treating the case as common assault.