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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Hong Kong’s high-speed rail joint checkpoint bill was not handled in a ‘draconian’ manner

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 6:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 6:00am

I refer to Alex Lo’s column, “Thank localists for the joint checkpoint” (September 25).

Amendment of the Legislative Council’s rules of procedure no doubt helped to ensure the passage of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bill in two weeks’ time, as the tightened rules gave the Legco president greater power to select amendments to a bill, and the power to resume a council meeting at any hour or on any day that the president deems fit, if a quorum is not present in the council.

However, amendments to Legco’s rules of procedure approved in December 2017 do not apply to the procedure for a bills committee. The latter is largely governed by rules and practices established over the years, as summarised in the handbook for the bills committee chair.

Paragraph 2.6 of the handbook  clearly states that bills scrutiny should be completed expeditiously, within three months as far as possible. I carried out my duty as the chairperson of the co-location bills committee in accordance with this principle.

There are no hard and fast rules governing voting on amendments in a bills committee. I ordered that the amendments to the bill be voted on after seeking legal advice on the procedure to be followed. Some members were not able to vote – not because of the speed of voting, but because they were chanting slogans, banging on tables, and refused to vote.

I object to Mr Lo’s description of my handling of the co-location bill as “draconian”. In the three-month period when bills scrutiny was carried out, I held 17 meetings totalling 45 hours, plus two public hearings on weekends totalling 19 hours. Two site visits to the West Kowloon station were carried out.

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Mr Lo should note that a number of Legco members declared from the outset that they were opposed to enactment of the bill. Several of them behaved in a disorderly manner during many meetings, and a few had to be expelled on May 7 because of disorderly conduct.

Mr Lo, writing from a distance, should check the facts more accurately before passing unfair judgments on legislators who worked hard to steer the co-location bill to a satisfactory conclusion in difficult circumstances.

Regina Ip, chairperson, Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bills Committee