Time has come for the Legislative Council not to say thanks

  • Lawmakers can save everyone’s time by agreeing to scrap the motion, a hangover from the colonial days, of expressing gratitude to the chief executive for the policy address
PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2018, 8:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2018, 10:39pm

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has done everyone a favour – including herself – by ditching the old colonial tradition of word-for-word delivery of the annual policy address in the legislature. Those who want the boring details can readily get them online.

Now, if only lawmakers can save everyone’s time by agreeing to scrap another colonial tradition – tabling a motion of thanks for the chief executive for delivering the annual policy blueprint.

For a second time in a row, Lam received the symbolic motion last week. By contrast, her three predecessors rarely received a motion of thanks.

But she is just doing her job delivering the policy agenda for the year ahead. Why should we give thanks when we haven’t even seen the results? Are Lam’s two policy addresses so superior to those of her predecessors, or was it the result of insufficient voting power from the opposition, partly due to the number of localist lawmakers being disqualified?

Of the 32 geographical representatives, 17 supported it and 15 opposed, last Friday.

In any case, whether such a motion is passed is no indication of the quality of the annual address in question, but depends entirely on whether the opposition has enough seats to go against it.

Legco passes motion thanking Hong Kong leader for policy address

This is because the motion requires a majority in both the geographical and functional constituencies, or the so-called split voting. The pro-government bloc has always had the majority in the functional sector.

The latest passage of the motion followed a three-day debate spanning 34 hours. Many lawmakers used up their 30 minutes of allotted speaking time. Would it not be a better use of time for the people’s business to address more pressing issues than arguing whether we should thank the chief executive?

You could argue the debate is not necessarily a waste of time as legislators may use the sessions to voice concerns and criticisms. Indeed, many did debate the most controversial policy of Lam’s latest address – the estimated HK$500 billion massive reclamation off East Lantau.

But we already know where all the lawmakers stand on Lantau reclamation; it is pretty much along party lines.

The motion of thanks is wholly symbolic. Virtually all the key policies will be put forward as bills to be approved or not approved, as the case may be, for legislative passage.

There is plenty of time to argue over policy details, in which the real devil is found.