Plans to tackle filibustering on the table after chaos of Hong Kong legislature’s education funding debate
Legislative Council Finance Committee chief Chan Kin-por proposes a number of measures to put an end to practice that has held up recent debates, following storm over disqualified lawmakers
The head of the Finance Committee in Hong Kong’s legislature has floated new proposals to restrict filibustering in the chamber over the funding approval process, saying “prevention measures” are needed.
Chan Kin-por’s suggestion was raised after pan-democrat lawmakers dragged out a recent debate for seven hours during a request for an extra HK$3.6 billion to spend on education. The filibustering was in protest against the disqualification of four of their colleagues over their oath-taking antics.
Chan, as the committee chairman, 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. Despite the intervention, five out of the eight funding requests were still not discussed.
The relationship between the executive and legislative branches of Hong Kong’s government turned sour after four pro-democracy lawmakers – Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Lau Siu-lai, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim – were disqualified two weeks ago for improper oath-taking in legal action launched by the former administration.
Speaking in a media interview on Sunday, Chan suggested more ways to restrict filibustering, including limiting the number of non-binding motions proposed by each lawmaker on an agenda item to one. There is no limit at present.
Chan also proposed banning lawmakers from requesting an adjournment of both the meeting and the discussion of an item. Under his proposal they could only request one.
“The opposition camp has made themselves clear that they would make the Legislative Council unable to function as usual, if the government fails to resolve the oath-taking saga,” Chan said. “How can we not take any preventative measures ahead of the storm?”
He added that the proposal would help to focus discussions.
Chan earlier also proposed to ban lawmakers expelled by the chairman due to inappropriate behaviour from joining the next session on the same day.
Changes to the procedures of the Financial Committee only require a simple majority of all lawmakers, yet previous attempts by the pro-Beijing camp failed due to enormous opposition from the pan-democrats.
Pan-democratic education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen previously warned that changing the rules without sound justification could lead to endless arguments.
Ip was worried that lawmakers’ rights of discussion could be hampered when core issues are being discussed.