The year since July 1 yielded little of significance as government delayed bills The shock created by the July 1 protest has reverberated through the corridors of government departments all through the past year - although probably not in the way the demonstrators might have hoped. The degree of public discontent exhibited in last year's rally was such that the government withdrew its proposed national security legislation, and this appears to have set a trend. A search through the legislative bills gazetted and those that were passed this legislative year yielded few bills that were likely to be controversial, giving the impression the government has been skirting controversy. There were substantially fewer bills gazetted this year - 19 compared with 41 in the last legislative session, but there were more consultation papers issued - 35 since July 1, compared with 29 in the previous year-long period. The papers, however, tended to be on innocuous topics such as building management and maintenance, while one of the few controversial issues due to be debated - the anti-racism law - has been deferred another few months to September. The government has also shelved a number of its policies with a view to minimising political risk or with the knowledge it would not gain enough support for them to pass. The proposed national security laws were the first to go soon after the July 1 rally, but a number of others have followed, including the proposal for a land departure tax, the public housing pet ban and plans to shorten voting hours in the District Council elections last year. A government spokesman defended the legislative record, saying it refrained from introducing too many bills this year as it is the last for the current legislators and any bill not enacted by the end of this session would lapse automatically. 'Indeed, it is a well-established practice that most of the bills would be handled in the first few years of the Legco term,' he said, adding that 92 per cent of the bills the government introduced into the current Legco over the past four years had passed. The only 10 not to pass were either on hold or only failed because of lack of time, he said. Political commentator Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said it was apparent that in the government's judgment, the current political climate was not conducive to gaining support and it was best to wait on issues that could be deferred. 'Until July 1 last year, there was a very clear governing coalition, with the Liberal Party, the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong and Tung Chee-hwa's administration,' he said. 'But given that any such governing coalition has collapsed, and in the run-up to the Legislative Council elections, the government would expect more opposition and would rather wait on issues where it is not sure it can get the support.' Liberal Party chief James Tien Pei-chun resigned from the Executive Council days after the July 1 march, two days before the ill-fated National Security Bill was to be put to Legco for its second reading. Professor Cheung warned that 'delaying tactics' cannot last forever and can result in a lame-duck government. 'After September, most people expect that the opposition will become more powerful - the government may still have to face a less-supportive Legco,' he said. 'If the government simply says it does not want to create too much confrontation, for example with the question of health-care financing, our long-term problems may never get solved and the health system may go bankrupt.' Rowena Kwok Yee-fun of the University of Hong Kong said the government must have realised after the July 1 rally last year that it lacked the legitimacy or moral authority to do what it must. 'My impression is that the chief executive has not really done enough to reconnect himself to Hong Kong society after his failure to put Article 23 laws through. The chief executive pledged he would learn from his mistakes but continued to make them, such as reappointing many Equal Opportunities Commission members that NGOs and the public had raised serious concerns about.' Professor Kwok added, however, that it was necessary to make the government realise through such rallies that as it was not elected, it had to work hard to persuade Hong Kong society that what it did was for the social good. The government spokesman defended the government's performance in the last year, saying it was determined to put the interests of people at the forefront. 'On this basis, Hong Kong has seen substantial development on various fronts in the past year as a result of measures adopted by the government, the hard work of the people and the support of central government,' a spokesman said, citing the 6.8 per cent increase in gross domestic product, stabilised property prices, falling unemployment and other economic advances, like the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. The spokesman also noted the government had doubled its investment in education compared with eight years ago, successfully guarded against Sars and bird flu, and encouraged taxis to switch to LPG in a bid to protect the environment. The spokesman also cited an improved social mood as a government achievement. Professor Cheung added that the future executive-legislative relationship depended on the chief executive's sincerity in maintaining a working relationship with the pan-democratic camp. 'Assuming pro-democracy forces dominate Legco, it will require the two sides to really sit down and come up with a legislative timetable with give and take from both sides, so there will be less need for Legco members to play politics,' he said.