My Take

Enough is enough: Hong Kong’s radical lawmakers must end filibustering on budget

Endless calls for a quorum count in the legislative chamber is more than just annoying; it’s holding up the people’s business

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2016, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2016, 6:40pm

By now, hearing the whiny voice of People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen calling for a quorum count in the legislative chamber is about as annoying and unpleasant as having a nine-inch nail driven into my skull.

Not all filibustering is equal. Sometimes it may be tolerated by the public, such as the one against setting up the Innovation and Technology Bureau, which didn’t affect most people, who rightly just didn’t care.

But the indiscriminate filibustering by Chan and his fringe group of lawmakers, tacitly supported by most other pan-democrats in the legislature, is the legislative equivalent of carpet bombing. It may appeal to their core supporters but disgusts most sensible people. Even a just war can be nullified by indiscriminate killings.

Repeat quorum counts have resulted in three debates on the government budget in as many weeks being called off. The result: lawmakers will vote on it anyway this week. The only difference is that there has been no substantive debate. Even if Chan & Co manage to engineer another quorum delay, there is no doubt they will have to pass the budget soon, before the summer recess in two months.

For it’s all a pan-democratic show. Despite their claim that the budget neglects the poor and grass roots, do they seriously dare to hold up such poverty-relief measures offered by the budget as an extra month’s allowance for more than a million recipients of social security, and old-age and disability allowances, as well as an electricity subsidy for 2.5 million households worth HK$1,800 each?

As a contingency, the government has interim funding for recurrent spending, but it either doesn’t have the money or refuses to use any to cover new budget items. Are the pan-dems ready to play a game of chicken? Most likely not.

Despite their bravado, pan-dems like Chan are backing themselves into a corner. The budget will have to pass. But endless filibustering has created a heavy backlog of many important bills. These include popular bills such as turning the Institute of Education into a university, allowing the government to run the Eastern Harbour Tunnel after its franchise expires this year, and implementing new tax rebates and other waivers.

If these bills lapse, we all know who to blame.