Hong Kong’s pan-democrats are making an unacceptable mockery of Legco processes

The opposition’s tactics will backfire if the city’s development and people’s livelihoods are hampered

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 January, 2016, 12:32am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 January, 2016, 12:32am

To say that the Legislative Council has become dysfunctional is not an overstatement. From enacting law to public funding approval, the government is facing greater obstacles to getting things done. The stalemate owes much to the growing hostility in the pan-democratic camp, as reflected in the sorry state of affairs over the copyright amendment bill last month. Some lawmakers sought to delay the vote by repeatedly questioning whether there were enough members to continue the meeting. There were altogether 59 attendance counts just over two and a half days, with 10 hours wasted on just ringing the bell for a quorum. Legco will resume its business tomorrow.

The prospect of approval for public works funding is not promising either. The government is tabling some 72 projects in the current session, costing HK$67.5 billion in total. But by mid-December, only four items worth HK$470 million were approved. More than a dozen funding requests are queued up for the Finance Committee’s approval, including livelihood-related ones such as medical vouchers for elderly citizens.

Under the current political system, pan-democrats are playing the role of opposition. They are not expected to rubber stamp all legislative and funding proposals. But that does not mean healthy checks and balances can be replaced by irrationality and inefficiency. Increasingly, council business is disrupted by filibustering and counting attendance. Rational and articulate debates are replaced by frivolous amendments and abuse of procedures. The situation has become absurd and is totally unacceptable.

If previous experience is any guide, the government can expect a tough time during an election year. With Legco polls just nine months away, challenges to the government are likely to intensify. The opposition may think a weak administration will help them win more votes. Unfortunately, their political point-scoring often comes at the expense of public interest. In the case of the copyright bill delay, industry is said to suffer hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue each year as a result of copyright infringement. The impact of funding delays on construction-related sectors is even wider, with some engineering firms warning of lay-offs and recruitment freezes.

At stake is not just effective governance. The opposition’s tactics will backfire if the city’s development and people’s livelihoods are hampered. The public wants effective checks and balances rather than pointless bickering and confrontation.