Fresh debate on package 'risks farce'

LEGISLATIVE Councillors from different political camps yesterday said it was unnecessary to engage in further debates on the constitutional reform package before the bills were tabled.

Independent member, Miss Emily Lau Wai-hing, said the legislature would ''degenerate into another farce'' if members were to debate Mr Jimmy McGregor's amendment to Mr Philip Wong Yu-hong's motion urging the Government to scrap Mr Patten's package.

Mr McGregor's amendment is designed to show the degree of support each individual item in the package will receive.

It is now waiting for Legco's Deputy President, Mr John Swaine, to decide whether it will be allowed.

The debate is scheduled for next Wednesday.

But Miss Lau said: ''We will not shy away from these things, but this is one debate we can do without. I don't want the public to find us keep arguing about the constitutional reform proposals.'' There have already been two debates on the reforms since they were unveiled by Mr Patten on October 7. One was moved by Mr McGregor and in the other he successfully amended a motion sponsored by Miss Christine Loh Kung-wai.

Liberal groups the United Democrats of Hongkong (UDHK) and Meeting Point, and the conservative Co-operative Resources Centre (CRC), also found the latest amendment unnecessary.

UDHK chairman Mr Martin Lee Chu-ming said: ''I find it disappointing and cannot figure out why Jimmy has tabled such an amendment.'' If any legislator disagreed with the proposals, it would be better for him to amend the bills, which would soon be tabled to the Legco, he said.

Meeting Point's deputy chairman Mr Luk Shun-tim said members should decide how to vote on the actual bills instead of wasting time on procedural matters.

The four legislators of the Meeting Point and Miss Lau will vote against both Mr Wong's motion and Mr McGregor's amendment.

The 17-strong CRC and the 13-member UDHK have yet to make up their mind on how to vote.

All three political groups and Miss Lau already indicated that they would not support Mr Wong's motion.

Mr McGregor has broken down the Governor's political package into seven individual proposals in his amendment which will require legislators to decide which item should be scrapped and which not.

The seven items include the abolition of appointed seats of the Municipal Councils and district boards; the formation of the Election Committee drawn wholly or mostly from elected district board members; the broadening of electorate of the 21 existing functional constituencies and the establishment of nine new functional constituencies comprising voters at the grass root level.