Childish Hong Kong lawmakers are making a farce of the legislative process
The public is right to be outraged as filibustering by pan-democrats once again halts proceedings to pass amendments to the copyright law
Outrage is not strong enough a word to describe the public’s feeling towards the Legislative Council. For the second time in a month, scrutiny of the controversial copyright law was suspended yesterday, after the pan-democrats again resorted to delaying tactics by repeatedly calling for a headcount to see if there were enough members in the chamber to continue. The sitting was eventually aborted after some rebel lawmakers walked out at the last second to kill the quorum.
The call for a headcount every five to seven minutes was more than just annoying. About three-fifths of the proceedings were spent on ringing the bell for lawmakers to return to the chamber. Ten hours were wasted on such a farce before the Christmas break. The pro-establishment camp hit out at its rivals over the foot-dragging, but the pan-democrats said the scenario could have been avoided had all other members attended the meeting.
Changes to the copyright law were first mooted as early as 2006. But an amendment bill that would have brought Hong Kong’s code into line with international norms was regrettably shelved at the 11th hour in 2012, amid worries that creative works and political parodies based on copyright materials would be restricted. The bill before Legco now is an improvement and should be passed as soon as possible.
The pan-democrats were frustrated that the government would not accept their amendments, which they believed would offer users of copyright materials more protection. But frustration is no justification to paralyse the legislature. Currently, there is no rule restricting members from calling for headcounts. Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing was right in saying that the situation was unacceptable. He said he would meet members from the two camps to study ways to address the problems. The repeated suspension of meetings has not just undermined the public’s perception of lawmakers, it has also raised serious questions about the efficiency of Legco. The present situation cannot be tolerated.