Funding for CY Leung's new innovation and technology bureau put on hold again

CY accuses pan-dems of filibuster, but most speakers in Legco debate were pro-establishment

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 July, 2015, 4:34am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 July, 2015, 4:34am

The government's planned innovation and technology bureau is officially on hold until at least October, after Legislative Council discussions were adjourned for the summer break.

The bureau plan, which is facing its third big delay since first being put forward by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying after his election in 2012, was the last item on the agenda for Legco's Finance Committee. But a final four-hour session yesterday did not reach a vote on the government's funding request.

Leung put the blame squarely on pan-democrats, accusing them of filibustering and turning a blind eye to "the government's sincerity" on the issue. However records of yesterday's debate show that 26 of the 33 lawmakers who spoke were from the pro-establishment camp.

Some spoke more than once, leaving radical pan-democrats, who see the bureau as poorly planned waste of money, with little need to play for time.

The government wanted lawmakers to approve HK$25 million in start-up funding for the bureau, and cover staff costs of HK$35 million.

Most of the pro-establishment lawmakers used their speeches to condemn Charles Mok, the pan-democrat who represents the information technology sector. Mok, who has been supportive of the bureau, had said Leung was the reason the idea was so unpopular.

"People's impression about a bureau has changed from support to scepticism as Leung Chun-ying's administration worsens," Mok said.

Wong Kwok-hing, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said Mok's comments were illogical.

"I think he is utterly shameless," Wong said. "It's reversing the cause and effect to say that Leung Chun-ying was the reason why the bureau couldn't be set up."

Others said the funding should be approved for the sake of Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung, who gave up his Polytechnic University vice-presidency earlier this year to head the bureau.

"This future minister should - like women [getting married] - be given a formal title," said Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee. At present, Yang is Leung's innovation and technology adviser.

Another pro-establishment lawmaker, Lam Tai-fai, questioned the need for the bureau. He complimented commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung, who would lose part of his remit with the creation of the new body. "So's eloquence shows that he is a man of very deep potential," Lam said.

Committee chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan took some of the blame for the failure to put the request to a vote after 20 hours of discussion since January. He put the delay down to "the inefficiency of meetings and the problem of my own capability".

The chief executive moved the bureau to the last spot on the agenda following calls for him to allow votes on non-controversial livelihood issues first.

"I express deep regret on pan-democratic lawmakers' continued insistence on filibustering by different means, which wastes public money, disregards the needs of society and the sector and impeding on Hong Kong's development," he said in a statement.

Leung, who floated the idea of the bureau in his election manifesto, called on lawmakers to vote on it as soon as possible.

But Albert Chan Wai-yip, of radical group People Power, vowed to filibuster after summer if the proposal remained the same.