Collateral damage in ongoing Legco battle

While training its guns on a government motion on the controversial express rail joint checkpoint plan, the opposition inadvertently killed debate on a bill for energy efficiency labels. And the way things are going in Legco, a lot more collateral damage to the people’s business may be on the way

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 12:33am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 12:57am

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has done a “reverse filibustering”. Anticipating more delaying tactics from the opposition, her government has managed to postpone a debate in the legislature on an amendment bill for real estate stamp duties to ensure the speedy passage of a non-binding motion on the controversial express rail joint checkpoint plan with mainland officers.

Tit for tat. The opposition tried to pull the trigger first and stalled over two days with more than 40 quorum counts, but to no avail. The motion is now set for debate next week.

Lam, of course, didn’t need the non-binding motion before launching the so-called “three steps” process for the joint checkpoint: the signing of a cooperation agreement with mainland authorities, endorsement of the plan by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, and approval in the Hong Kong legislature. It’s not crucial to the legislative process, but its failure would be a loss of face in her first battle with the opposition in the new Legco session.

Hong Kong opposition filibuster blocks Lam’s plan for Legco to prioritise joint checkpoint debate

More substantial are the 34 amendments the opposition bloc has proposed to rewrite Legco’s rules of procedure. It said they would boost transparency and efficiency but are in reality a transparent bid to fight back attempts by Chan Kin-por, chairman of the powerful finance committee, to revamp those rules to neuter the ability of the opposition to filibuster and commit other delaying tactics.

Loyalist lawmakers hope to make those changes before the next by-elections in March by exploiting the numerical weaknesses of the opposition after six localist lawmakers were disqualified over improper oath-taking. If so, it would guarantee easy passage in Legco for the joint checkpoint plan, which the opposition has vowed to scupper.

First Hong Kong Legco meeting ends abruptly, as divisions appear to deepen

By their own calculations, opposition lawmakers need to drag out discussion for its 34 amendments by almost 200 hours and to stall up to 10 council meetings over the rules of procedures until the March by-elections. If that’s the case, we can kiss much of Legco’s usual work for the public goodbye.

We have already seen the first casualty. While training its guns on Lam’s motion, the opposition inadvertently killed the meeting and debate for the Environment Bureau’s bill for energy efficiency labels, something which it presumably supported.

The way things are going, there looks to be a lot more such collateral damage to the people’s business on the way.