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Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Moves under way to change Hong Kong Legislative Council rules to block filibustering

Pro-government lawmakers ‘take advantage’ of disqualification of four pan-democrat councillors to press for changes to the Legco rulebook

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 July, 2017, 7:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 July, 2017, 7:01am

Pro-government lawmakers will propose to change the procedural rules for the Legislative Council after the summer recess to restrict filibusters in a move slammed by their rivals as “taking advantage” of their plight.

The plan was revealed a day after HK$3.6 billion in education funding was approved after pan-democrats dragged out the debate for seven hours in protest against last week’s disqualification of four of their colleagues over an oath-taking controversy.

Finance Committee chairman Chan Kin-por pushed through some of the remaining items for a vote amid chaos in the final 30 minutes of the last committee meeting before the summer recess, but five out of the eight funding requests were not touched.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a member of the committee on rules of procedure, told the Post that their camp would raise proposals to restrict filibusters in council meetings when Legco resumes in October.

Changes to the rulebook require support from both geographical and functional constituencies, which are both dominated by the pro-government camp after six lawmakers from its rival camp were disqualified over their oath-taking antics.

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu slammed the pro-Beijing lawmakers for taking advantage of the “exceptional time” to strip legislators’ powers.

But Leung did not think it was wrong to take advantage of the situation to change the rulebook.

“As a lawmaker, I am only concerned if I work for the greatest interest of the Hong Kong people.”

Rules committee chairman Paul Tse Wai-chun said they could not wait for the Legco by-elections, and amendments to procedures had always been on the agenda.

Speaking on an RTHK programme on Thursday, Chan said: “We used to spend over an hour on each item back in 2012 and 2013. But now it takes almost five hours for just one.”

He said he would also propose to tighten rules for the Finance Committee, including banning lawmakers expelled by the chairman due to inappropriate behaviour from joining the next session on the same day.

There goes the power to filibuster, and it’s all the pan-dems’ own fault

He also said the number of non-binding motions proposed by each lawmaker on an agenda item should be capped at one. There is now no limit.

Pan-democratic education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen warned that changing the rules without sound justification could lead to endless arguments.

“If meeting rules are easily amended and core issues are involved, lawmakers’ rights of discussion might be hampered,” Ip said.

Four pro-democracy lawmakers – Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Lau Siu-lai, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim – were disqualified last week for improper oath-taking in a legal action launched by the former administration.

Previously, in November, two localist lawmakers – Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang – were also unseated for their oath-taking antics.