Hong Kong pan-democrats warn of Legislative Council turmoil
Relations poised to worsen as Carrie Lam declines to commit to suggestions after four lawmakers’ unseating
Hong Kong’s opposition politicians on Tuesday night warned that it could no longer be business as usual at the Legislative Council after the city’s leader would not commit to their suggestions for making peace over the unseating of four pan-democrats last week.
Relations between the two sides looked set to worsen after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor brushed aside most of the pan-democrats’ requests on the eve of the last meeting of the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee before the summer recess on Wednesday.
Lam needs lawmakers to pass the HK$3.6 billion she has earmarked for an education funding boost, to be debated on Wednesday along with a bundle of other funding requests, and the opposition camp is in no mood to cooperate.
After another internal meeting of the pan-democratic camp on Tuesday night, convenor James To Kun-sun said: “If the government is not determined to untie the knots, there is no way for the pan-democrats to maintain a normal relationship with the government, and no way for Legco to run like business as usual.”
To said they would only scrutinise the education funding request at the committee meeting, but stopped short of disclosing if they would endorse it.
While education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said he was confident the education funding would be passed, the fate of seven other applications was up in the air.
The other items in the queue are funding applications for the Tuen Mun Hospital extension, a new hospital at Kai Tak, the Tung Chung new town extension, development of columbarium and related facilities at Sandy Ridge Cemetery, the new Central Kowloon Route, reprovisioning of street sleepers’ services for the Yau Ma Tei Theatre project, and a pay rise for civil servants.
Relations have hit rock bottom after Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim were stripped of their seats by a court last Friday for improper oath-taking in October.
Watch: four more lawmakers disqualified
Though the lawsuit was launched by the previous administration, the pan-democrats suggested Lam had the responsibility as well as the means to make up for it by showing some leniency.
Two other lawmakers, pro-independence duo Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, have lodged an appeal after they were disqualified in November for distorting their oaths with anti-China language.
Heading in to her weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Lam said she was sincere about improving strained relations, but this could not be done by compromising the rule of law.
“I have to act in accordance with the law and in accordance with the broadest public interest of the Hong Kong people,” she said. “I’m not here as the chief executive to just deal with the pan-democratic members. I have 7.3 million people to whom I have to be accountable for my decisions and actions.”
Lam rejected the pan-democrats’ request to waive the four lawmakers’ costly legal fees, saying it was part of the court ruling.
She remained non-committal on their suggestion that by-elections for all six empty seats should not be held at the same time, saying a decision would only be made after all judicial proceedings were over. The pan-democratic camp is unlikely to recapture two of those seats if the by-elections are lumped together.
On their request to spare the unseated lawmakers from having to repay the salaries they had drawn so far, Lam said that was a matter for Legco to decide.
Addressing their concerns that she should not push ahead with national security legislation, Lam said she did not think the disqualification saga had created suitable conditions to do so.