Hong Kong legislature’s finance chief to issue ‘chairman directives’ to curb filibustering
Chan Kin-por wants to bar legislators from returning to chamber if they are thrown out and limit time for speeches, but pan-democrats slam the plans
The pro-establishment lawmaker who heads the Finance Committee of Hong Kong’s legislature plans to introduce a set of “chairman directives” in an effort to curb filibustering over government funding applications.
Committee chairman Chan Kin-por claimed the directives did not need the green light from fellow legislators on the body, but the idea quickly proved controversial when the opposition pro-democracy bloc in the Legislative Council came out strongly opposed.
The bloc’s power has been significantly weakened since the start of the new legislative year after six pan-democrat lawmakers were disqualified by a court for improperly taking their oaths of office. Their reduced number has opened a window of opportunity for pro-government legislators to change the rules of procedure in the legislature.
Among changes proposed under the directives is a plan to ban lawmakers returning to the chamber in the same day if they are ousted for improper behaviour. Currently they are allowed to enter the next session of a meeting.
“The duration of a meeting session could be changed from two hours to four hours or even eight hours, so [evicted] lawmakers would not be able to return, since it would be regarded as the same meeting,” Chan said on Saturday.
“That problem would then automatically be solved ... without the need to amend the meeting procedures.”
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Chan said he also hoped to reduce the speaking time for lawmakers from the current three minutes each to about one minute. He said 95 per cent of speeches saw legislators go adrift of the subject after 30 seconds.
Changes to procedures for the Finance Committee require a simple majority voting in favour, meaning the pro-establishment camp could change the rules at any time for the committee, even without the disqualification of the six lawmakers.
But Chan said that he, as chairman of the committee, enjoyed the power to implement the two directives as an alternative to amending procedures, and he had no plans to put them to a vote.
He said he would meet Charles Mok, the convenor of the pro-democracy bloc, next week, and hoped to announce the directives as soon as possible.
Mok however slammed Chan, saying he was trying to take advantage of the oath-taking saga to push ahead with changes that would be counterproductive to the committee’s efficiency.
“We did not plan to be confrontational in the Finance Committee but now Chan has ruined the relatively harmonious atmosphere as the new session is beginning,” he said.
Mok added that the camp was studying whether Chan actually did enjoy the power to issue directives.
He demanded the proposed changes be debated openly at a special meeting of the committee.