Finger pointing and shouts as Hong Kong Legco meeting breaks down in chaos over lawmaker disqualifications
Fresh emotions run high a day after controversial court ruling stripped four legislators of their seats; discussion on education funding proposal stalled
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s HK$3.6 billion education pledge is in peril after a Legislative Council meeting on Saturday to discuss the proposal ended abruptly in a war of words sparked by the controversy over four disqualified lawmakers.
Before the 9am Finance Committee meeting, the four lawmakers – “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, dressed mostly in black and flanked by other pan-democrats – chanted slogans on their way to the second floor of the Legco building.
“No overthrow of election results. Oppose the interpretation of the Basic Law,” the four shouted.
They were refused entry to the meeting, where emotions ran high as pan-democrats and pro-establishment lawmakers clashed over the court ruling a day before that unseated the four. The lawmakers were disqualified on Friday for their improper Legco oaths while being sworn in on October 12 last year.
The discussion eventually broke down at about 10am, leaving Lam and Education Bureau chief Kevin Yeung Yun-hung with only eight hours next Wednesday to get the spending proposal approved. At stake is an injection of HK$3.6 billion into the education sector – part of Lam’s HK$5 billion plan promised in her election pledge.
Tensions escalated at Saturday’s meeting when pro-establishment member Holden Chow Ho-ding told the Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu to be quiet while Yeung was disputing a claim by Legco legal adviser, Connie Fung Sau-kuen, that past votes cast by the disqualified lawmakers should remain valid.
Before Chow’s actions, Finance Committee chairman Chan Kin-por had warned Yeung not to cross-examine the legal adviser as if she were in court.
“Now even the way in which I pose my questions requires your approval?” Yeung said in reply.
“Yes. Because I am the chairman and your time for questions was granted under my discretion,” Chan said.
In the aftermath of the scrapped meeting, Lam urged lawmakers to speed up the discussion of the education agenda by the end of the Legco session next week.
She expressed understanding towards pan-democrats for their anger over the court decision, but said she believed the case should not affect Legco’s usual work.
“My sincerity to improve relations between the executive and legislative branches remains unchanged. My cabinet and I will work hard to cooperate with different parties in Legco,” she said.
Education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen was confident that the funding would be granted next week as pan-democrats were aware of the significance of the funding.
The funding, which is hoped to be available before the new school term starts in September, includes HK$1.2 billion earmarked for subsidising 35,000 undergraduate students every year; HK$1.5 billion for creating 2,300 places for teachers and 840 for special education coordinators; and HK$90 million for boosting IT education and hiring therapists for more than 30 special education institutions.
Meanwhile, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said the estimated cost for an appeal against their disqualification was millions of dollars. “Raising money for legal fees is our next priority,” he said.