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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Rift in Legco deepens after chaotic scenes at closed-door meeting

Chaos erupts after Beijing-friendly lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun refused to allow a number of pan-democrats to sit in on the meeting

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 October, 2017, 10:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 12:28pm

A closed-door Hong Kong Legislative Council committee meeting to discuss tightening the Legco rule book descended into chaos on Monday, after a pro-establishment lawmaker blocked pan-democrats from entering the meeting room, deepening the rift between both camps.

In the latest drama, committee chairman Paul Tse barred several pan-democrats, who are not part of the 12-member committee, from the meeting while two pan-democrat committee members broadcast the heated exchange to the public via Facebook.

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The disarray resulted in the committee failing to debate proposed amendments, tabled by the pro-establishment camp, that would effectively curb filibustering and make it harder for the legislature to investigate the city’s officials.

On Monday afternoon, the lawmakers who were denied entry into the meeting room, including Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Ray Chan Chi-chuen, stationed themselves at the entrance and chanted slogans such as “Shame on Paul Tse”.

First Hong Kong Legco meeting ends abruptly, as divisions appear to deepen

Civic Party lawmaker and committee member Dennis Kwok denounced what had happened.

“Paul Tse has disregarded the basic rights of every member to participate in a committee meeting even though that person is not a member of that committee,” Kwok said.

He added, citing clause 24(d) of the House Rules: “This is why this meeting is such an outrage.”

Inside the meeting, pro-democracy members engaged in a war of words with their rivals as they accused Tse of forcing through the agenda items without thorough discussion.

Led by Tse, the committee had gone through several agenda items in haste, Kwok’s party colleague Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said.

Reconciliation far off as Legco tension rises

The items included allowing Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to attend brief but more frequent question-and-answer sessions with lawmakers, as well as ruling out a thorough discussion at the committee level on another set of amendments suggested by the pro-establishment camp, which would curb filibustering in future Finance Committee meetings.

Tse, who was besieged by some pan-democrats as he left the meeting room, criticised the lawmakers for disrupting the meeting.

He defended the decision to not let non-members sit in on the meeting, as this was a long-standing practice that allowed lawmakers to freely exchange views.

Tse also said there was no need for the committee to discuss the amendments proposed by the pro-establishment camp regarding the Finance Committee, because they did not see how these amendments would violate the Legco’s rules of procedure.

Gary Chan Hak-kan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, condemned the pan-democrats, including Kwok and Yeung, for running a live broadcast of the closed-door meeting via their Facebook accounts.

“This is not the way the committee on rules of procedure handles things,” he said.