Deadline on covert surveillance bill must be met, insists Legco president The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong yesterday accused the democrats of dragging their heels on the spying bill debate and playing into the hands of criminals, as the Legislative Council prepared for a possible overnight session tonight. Council president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai said during yesterday's 16-hour meeting she could not rule out working through the night to ensure the law gets passed by Tuesday's court-imposed deadline. But democrats protested at the 'inhuman' proposal. 'As president, I don't mind if it's passed or vetoed, but we have to complete scrutiny of this bill by August 8,' Mrs Fan said. But Civic Party members questioned whether Mrs Fan had to concern herself with the deadline. 'The legal vacuum has been there for 10 years - why do we have to concern ourselves with August 8,' Audrey Eu Yuet-mee asked. 'I hope people don't think that if we can't pass this by that date it will amount to a dereliction of duty.' Mrs Fan said members were entitled to freedom of speech to make their points but 'if they make use of this freedom to prolong the proceedings unjustifiably, we won't be able to complete our work'. 'My duty is to decide when we can adjourn and resume ... you can always move a motion of no confidence if you want.' Legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung said he would move such a motion if Mrs Fan allowed the meeting to continue overnight. Such a motion would inevitably lengthen the meeting as members would each have seven minutes to debate it. 'I think she will be extremely irresponsible if she allows the meeting to run overnight because, as well as affecting legislators' freedom of speech, it will inevitably undermine the quality of the legislation because lawmakers will be too tired to scrutinise it,' Mr Leung said. But major parties declined democrat Albert Chan Wai-yip's invitation to 'ambush' the government by calling for a quorum count and staging a walkout to abort the meeting. Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat said he would make a 'verbal protest', while Ms Eu said the 68 hours of meeting time remaining before Monday was enough. But government allies said democrats might be forced into silence if the debate went around the clock. Executive councillor Bernard Charnwut Chan said: 'Who will really talk during the night?' During debates on the definition of 'serious crime', DAB lawmakers Lau Kong-wah and Chan Kam-lam were among those who accused democrats of serving the interests of criminals by tying the hands of law enforcement authorities.