Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing has promised to 'exchange views' with lawmakers on his unprecedented decision to block an attempt to filibuster a controversial by-election law.
In a written explanatory ruling yesterday, Tsang defended his move to halt last Thursday's debate on the bill restricting the right of lawmakers who resign midterm to stand in by-elections.
He had invoked Article 92 of Legco's rules of procedure, which empower the president to decide on matters not covered by the rules.
Tsang said his decision was in line with the Basic Law and Legco's rules, which he said empowered the president to chair meetings 'in a manner which ensures the efficient conduct of business and is also consistent with the general principles of protecting members' rights to speak'.
But he admitted: 'There is definitely room for improvement in the way I have consulted members on the best way forward in dealing with matters not provided for in the rules of procedure.'
He plans to discuss the issue with lawmakers at a committee meeting.
Tsang said he had sought advice from Legco's secretariat and legal adviser on halting the filibuster led by radical pan-democrats. But he could not cite any direct precedent to his move from legislatures elsewhere in the world.
He quoted an opinion he had sought from Malcolm Jack, a former clerk to Britain's House of Commons, who said because Legco's rules did not cover filibustering, the decision should rest with the body's president.
Tsang had closed last week's 33-hour debate after a private meeting with 30 of the 60 lawmakers. He said yesterday that 'no objection [to the decision] was heard at the meeting'. But pan-democrat lawmakers said yesterday that they had objected.
The High Court has rejected a legal challenge to Tsang's decision.