How Carrie Lam has become an empress
The chief executive and her allies have effectively taken full control of the legislative process, thanks in part to the incompetence of the opposition.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says her administration’s relationship with the legislature has improved and that the people’s business is being done more efficiently.
The chief executive is being a tad disingenuous.
Or perhaps she is being modest instead of boasting about having neutered the opposition.
Certainly, the number of bills passed in the Legislative Council more than doubled from the previous Legco session.
Twenty-six bills passed in the 2017-18 session from last October to July, compared with just 12 in the prior legislative year.
Lam also received the first motion of thanks for her policy address in nine years for a chief executive.
She now faces perhaps the most demoralised opposition since the 1997 return of sovereignty to China.
And that’s all thanks to the disqualified localist lawmakers and previous radical legislators for giving the government the perfect excuse as well as public support, or at least tolerance, to launch a crackdown against them and their rioting comrades.
By being ejected from Legco, the six localists made it possible for the government’s legislative allies to rewrite the chamber’s rules and procedures, thereby undermining filibustering and other delaying tactics favoured by the opposition.
It also helps enormously that the current Legco president, Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, is the least independent since 1997.
For Lam, the greatest benefit so far has been the passage of the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement at the West Kowloon terminus for the cross-border express rail link.
Many pundits, including yours truly, had predicted a fierce battle with the opposition over allowing mainland law to apply at the terminus, perhaps even a repeat of the massive rally in 2003 against Article 23 of the Basic Law, which requires Hong Kong to pass national security legislation.
Its passage turned out to be relatively smooth sailing, with Leung having capped the length of the debate in the Legco chamber, rejecting most amendments by opposition legislators and kicking a few of them out of crucial meetings.
Though Leung took the fall for Lam by being rounded on by the opposition, he easily survived a vote of no confidence.
Before the Legco coup by the government and the pro-establishment bloc, lawmakers had enjoyed implicit immunity from arrest, at least inside the Legco building.
Now, it’s perfectly acceptable to call in police to investigate lawmakers’ behaviour.
Last week, during a Legco visit, an entourage of security guards stopped a few opposition lawmakers such as James To Kun-sun from entering the chamber until Lam had gone inside and settled down.
Chief executive? More like Empress Lam.