Legislative Council of Hong Kong

‘I’ll curb Legco filibusters unless you can convince me otherwise,’ finance panel chairman warns

Pro-establishment lawmaker plans to issue two orders to curb delay tactics on government funding applications by end of month

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 October, 2017, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 October, 2017, 7:24pm

The pro-establishment Hong Kong lawmaker who heads the legislature’s finance panel said he would issue two orders to curb filibustering of government funding applications by the end of this month unless the pan-democrats could convince him otherwise.

Finance Committee chairman Chan Kin-por proposed an informal meeting be held either on Tuesday or October 23 to sound out lawmakers’ views.

“I gave them the [draft] proposal,” Chan said. “And I will amend it if they can give me sound counterarguments.”

“But if they’re not forthcoming, I can’t just wait forever … I can only assume that they see no problems and I’ll issue the directives within one or two days [after the meeting],” he added.

However, the pan-democrats claimed such a meeting would be meaningless unless Chan gave the camp a document formally presenting the proposals and explained their legal implications.

Pan-democratic lawmaker Charles Mok said the camp believed any change to Legislative Council rules “should be discussed in our committee”.

I can’t just wait forever
Chan Kin-por, Finance Committee chairman

“We would also consult Legco’s legal adviser about the proposals,” he added.

In addition, Chan proposed special meetings over the next two months to discuss other changes to Legco rules put forth by his pro-establishment allies.

The chairman issued a draft copy of his two orders on Monday. It included a plan to ban lawmakers ousted for improper behaviour from returning to the chamber on the same day. Under current rules, they are allowed to enter the next two-hour session on the same day.

The other change would shorten debates over motions to shorten the duration of the voting bell.

At present, if the committee is voting on a series of items consecutively, a lawmaker can table a motion – after the first item is being voted on – to shorten the duration of the voting bell from five minutes to one minute. Any lawmaker who opposes the move is allotted three minutes to speak. Chan has said he hoped to reduce that speaking time to one minute for each lawmaker, while his pro-establishment colleagues want to ban such debates altogether.

The pro-democracy bloc’s power in Legco has been significantly weakened since the start of the new legislative year after six pan-democrats were disqualified by a court for improperly taking their oaths of office. Their reduced ranks opened a window of opportunity for pro-government legislators to change the rules of procedure in the full council.

Such changes for the Finance Committee require a simple majority vote to pass, meaning the pro-establishment camp could change the rules at any time, even had the six lawmakers not been disqualified, based on the panel’s membership.

But Chan claimed that, as committee chairman, he enjoys the power to implement the two orders and need not hold a vote to amend the rules. He said he had no plans to put the two orders to a vote.