Hong Kong's Legislative Council must reconsider its procedural rules that are open to abuse

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 November, 2015, 1:08am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 November, 2015, 1:08am

Once again, the Legislative Council has disappointed Hongkongers. Just three weeks into the final year of the current term, the weekly meeting was brought to an abrupt halt again because attendance fell short of the quorum. Frustratingly, the suspension stemmed from the deliberate attempts of a handful of radical lawmakers to derail the proceedings by repeatedly calling for a headcount to see whether there were enough members to continue. The counting added up to four hours. It is a waste of time and resources. To make matters worse, some members have vowed to escalate their actions after their filibuster to block the establishment of the innovation and technology bureau was curbed by the council's Finance Committee chief last week. While their tactics may have an appeal to a narrow spectrum of supporters, the triumph came at the expense of the council's operating efficiency and image, and ultimately, public interest.

That more than half of the lawmakers stayed away from the meeting is lamentable. Among them is Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, who left his deputy to preside over the meeting. Tsang said even though he heard the bell ringing, he was so absorbed with work in his office that he became oblivious to the passage of time. Those who failed to show up apologised for their absence but they cannot undo the damage that has been done.

Attending council meetings is the members' basic responsibility. But instead of settling the issues put on the agenda, radical lawmakers sought to kill off the meeting. While those who were absent have to shoulder responsibility, the root of the problem stemmed from the radical members. Not only were they wrong to sabotage council business, they also prevented others from discharging their duties.

Lawmakers are entitled to use unconventional means like filibustering to make their arguments. But the legislature cannot operate effectively if such tactics are abused. Consideration should be given to changing the rules to prevent abuses.