Hong Kong’s legislature must avoid a return to the dark days
- A protest by pan-democrats forced city leader Carrie Lam to abandon her question-and-answer session with lawmakers, once again bringing the chamber into disrepute when hope was on the horizon
The chaotic scenes that brought Hong Kong’s legislature into disrepute have regrettably returned. For the first time, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has been forced to abandon her question-and-answer session after the Legislative Council president sought to stop rowdy protests by pan-democrats over an allied lawmaker being banned from standing in a village election. The disruption in turn prompted the pro-government camp to consider tightening house rules further. The growing tension is hardly conducive to political stability and cooperation. It is imperative for all sides to exercise restraint and avoid aggravating the situation further.
With no fewer than 10 election hopefuls having been disqualified over the issue of Basic Law allegiance over the past two years, the latest being lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick in the village poll, the pan-democrats are understandably outraged. But this is not an excuse to disrupt the operation of Legco, and the 30-minute session on Wednesday could have been used to discuss important issues facing the city. However, it was wasted in a row over the decision to expel some protesting lawmakers from the chamber. The chief executive did not even have a chance to answer any questions.
The chaos inevitably further undermines the image of the legislature. Instead of taking the opportunity to engage the city’s leader on a wide range of issues of public concern, pan-democrats turned it into a forum for making political statements.
The call to further tighten rules of procedure may become another flashpoint of disputes. The pro-government camp of course has enough votes to push through whatever rules it likes after its rivals lost its veto power following by-elections triggered by an earlier disqualification saga. But such moves may prompt the rival camp to become more extreme.
Lam has rightly offered to address the legislature more frequently to help restore relations with it. Under her leadership, the political atmosphere is relatively calmer than that during the previous administration. It would be dangerous for the tension to be allowed to further escalate. The last thing we want is Legco plunging back into confrontation and chaos.