Hong Kong’s opposition leaders only have themselves to blame

They have used questionable tactics to such an irrational and destructive extent as to squander public goodwill, understanding and forbearance

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 1:40am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 2:52am

The irony is hard to miss. The opposition is using protests, disruptions, quorum counts, filibustering and any and all delaying tactics it can come up with to stall changes to the rule book of the Legislative Council to restrict such tactics. The chaos we have just witnessed in the Legco chamber this week will only get worse.

But the opposition is just digging a bigger hole for itself – and confirming for the public that it has nothing constructive to offer other than opposing for its own sake.

Filibustering and stalling in general have a place in any legislative assembly that doesn’t want to be just a rubber stamp. But they need to be used sparingly and wisely. Unfortunately, such tactics became the weapon of first rather than last resort for opposition lawmakers during the years of the Leung Chun-ying administration, which they hated and despised to an almost hysterical level.

Opposition leaders like to claim they oppose only unjust bills and “white elephant” infrastructure projects. But, whether intentional or not, their indiscriminate, scorched-earth tactics have caused tremendous collateral damage.

Hong Kong Legco descends into chaos as pan-democrats protest over rule book changes

In local construction, an estimated HK$180 billion of works, of which about 40 per cent is funded publicly, is needed each year to sustain a 400,000 workforce.

Last year, the government sought HK$67.5 billion for 72 construction projects, yet only a handful were approved because of disruptions to funding in Legco. The vast majority were minor works, not large-scale “white elephants”.

More ridiculously, opposition legislators have been happy to hold up funding approval they themselves support just to spite the government. That was what happened in July when a popular HK$3.6 billion additional recurrent funding in education was not approved until the last minute because of protests against the disqualification of localist lawmakers.

Pan-dems continue protest against Legco rule book change, ask for 97 motions to be debated first

It should surprise no one that more than half of those questioned in a recent Chinese University survey opposed filibustering and other delaying tactics, while only about a third expressed support.

The loyalists in Legco are no doubt exploiting a rare opportunity to curb the ability of the opposition to block government bills with the disqualification that has left six Legco seats vacant; they would be foolish not to.

Opposition leaders have no one to blame but themselves to have used questionable tactics to such an irrational and destructive extent as to squander public goodwill, understanding and forbearance.