Tsang gave up his neutrality, and the legislature's credibility

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2012, 12:00am


Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing is highly regarded by the public and the media because of his self-styled political neutrality and fair and open attitude. As a result, he is often rated one of the most popular Legco members.

Last week, Tsang single-handedly destroyed the procedures of Legco by halting the debate over the controversial by-election amendment bill. He should be condemned by history as a 'sinner of a thousand generations'.

Over the past few days, Tsang has been trying to crawl out of this deep political hole by coming up with numerous excuses. It's obvious he gave in to the political pressure exerted by the central government's liaison office and chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, and surrendered the independence of the council.

This is a political disaster because we have now lost the traditional tripartite separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

Now the Hong Kong people, including those who didn't support using the filibuster to delay proceedings, can see the extent of the damage. Tsang has done irreparable harm to Legco, our democratisation process and democratic politics.

We are left with a Legco president who is neither fair nor open because he is willing to bend common-sense rules to protect vested interests. As a result, the nature of our legislature has been distorted; it has lost its operating principles of being unbiased and open.

The current political system, which allows voting by groups to guarantee the government a smooth passage of pending bills, already disadvantages the minority opposition. With the latest development, we will almost certainly see the continued rise of the tyrannical majority within the council while the minority politicians, who represent the masses, will continue to be suppressed. Without a voice for the people and with the loss of its fundamental principles, Legco has lost the purpose of its existence.

Naturally, the central government, which has long advocated the importance of an executive-led administration in Hong Kong, will be more than happy to see us heading in that direction. Beijing has promoted the concept of mutual co-operation between the legislative, executive and judicial arms of the administration. This has happened even before Leung takes office.

To be honest, the central government has paid a high price in order to make Leung the chief executive. First, in order to protect Leung, the liaison office had to dump Henry Tang Ying-yen, who was favoured by the business sector and tycoons. That decision caused a rift between the central government and the business community. Leung tried to reach out and reconcile with his opposition after the election, but it's easier said than done.

Furthermore, Beijing blatantly allowed Leung to disregard the Basic Law and the ruling of the Court of Final Appeal by unilaterally announcing that mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong will not be guaranteed the right of abode for their children. He also said private hospitals should not admit pregnant mainlanders who are not local residents. Done without proper consultation, these actions were meant to boost Leung's popularity.

Even before taking office, Leung has positioned himself as a strong leader and has insisted on expanding the structure of his team.

Leung repeatedly pressured Legco to stop the delaying tactics of the filibuster, to make way for his restructuring plan to be approved. When all attempts failed, Leung went to seek help from the liaison office. A day after that visit, Tsang pulled the plug on the debate, which effectively killed the filibuster.

Inevitably, Tsang must have faced immense political pressure. Some members are now considering moving a confidence motion. Tsang's reputation is at stake, as is that of Legco's secretariat, which will in turn have a huge negative impact on civil service morale.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. [email protected]