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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Enough of theatrics in Legislative Council

Opposition lawmakers have gone too far in their attempts to thwart the proposed joint checkpoint for the cross-border high speed railway

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 November, 2017, 1:29am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 November, 2017, 1:29am

With filibusters being used more often by some lawmakers to block policy and funding proposals they see as unacceptable, chaos and disruptions at the Legislative Council have become the norm. The farce has now reached a dangerous point, after an opposition lawmaker sought to derail the proposed joint checkpoint for the cross-border high speed railway by invoking a house rule that will seriously undermine press freedom. Enough is enough.

The attempt last week by Eddie Chu Hoi-dick to continue the motion debate on the so-called co-location plan in the absence of the media and members of the public surprised many, not only because it was used for the first time. If endorsed, journalists and the public would effectively be expelled from the chamber. Chu and his pan-democratic allies denied they were attempting to restrict press freedom and public scrutiny, saying they were just exhausting all possible means to delay the vote. But the implications are damaging, as reflected by the responses of the news industry.

Legco debate on joint rail checkpoint adjourned after meeting descends into chaos

From meaningless headcounts for quorum to shutting out the media, the tactics are becoming more extreme. Two weeks ago, another house rule was invoked to steer discussion to an unrelated bill. It would not be surprising if the opposition resorts to further, unsavoury tactics to stall the motion debate again.

The opposition may see nothing wrong in playing games with the rules. But their actions may even upset those who are sympathetic to their aims. Equally questionable is the response of some pro-establishment lawmakers. Their appeal for a police investigation into possible breaches of lawmakers’ statutory powers and privileges does nothing to calm the tension.

The government’s plan to allow the stationing of mainland law enforcers at the high-speed rail terminus in West Kowloon is no doubt highly contentious. That said, delaying the motion further has no real impact, as the government does not require lawmakers’ blessing to kick-start the process. The chief executive’s pledge that she would not jump the gun is a goodwill gesture. Hopefully, it will be reciprocated with a rational debate instead of more theatrics.