Hong Kong’s opposition prevents Carrie Lam’s motion on joint rail checkpoint plan
Pan-democrats view the ‘co-location’ plan as undermining the city’s autonomy
Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday rebuffed a motion to push forward a controversial joint checkpoint plan for the high-speed rail link to mainland China, dealing a blow to Hong Kong’s leader.
Pan-democrats filibustered the non-binding motion that would have allowed Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to get moving on the so-called co-location plan. The plan would give mainland officials almost full jurisdiction over part of the West Kowloon terminal leased to them.
The pan-democrats see the arrangement as undermining the city’s autonomy granted in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
They criticised Lam for postponing a debate on stamp duty at the Legislative Council on Wednesday to force a discussion on the co-location proposal.
Lam lashed out at the opposition for their filibustering, but said the development showed the need to reshuffle Legco’s agenda.
“This has actually proven that we have grounds to adjourn the debate on the stamp duty bill … or else the filibuster would even take longer,” Lam said, adding she had never expected the motion would be approved in a single meeting.
The opposition, who dragged out last week’s meeting with 26 quorum bells and eventually forced an early adjournment, resorted to a new tactic on Wednesday when they postponed a banking amendment bill before the joint checkpoint motion was tabled.
They were able to grind the meeting to a halt after localist lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick used an arcane clause in the rule book that allowed legislators more time for debate.
Sources in the pro-democracy camp admitted the stalling tactic was used to defer debate on the checkpoint plan.
Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong to re-enter the fray at rally against high-speed rail checkpoint plan
Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen adjourned the meeting for an hour before approving Chu’s motion.
“As president, I can only govern according to the rules of procedure,” Leung said. “But I hope the lawmakers will utilise their time better as their acts are being watched by the public.”
The weekly meeting, which ended at 8pm on Wednesday, will continue at 9am on Thursday with Chu’s motion, to be followed by the co-location motion debate.
The pro-establishment camp blasted the pan-democrats for doing more harm to the city than good.
“We feel sorry as all of society has to pay the price,” said Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
But 22 opposition lawmakers released a joint statement supporting Chu’s move.
“The action is to oppose the abuse of power by the government and pro-establishment lawmakers, who have attempted to reduce the Legislative Council to a puppet of the administration,” they wrote.
They also objected to recent proposals to curb filibustering, claiming the pro-establishment camp was taking advantage of its increased majority after six opposition lawmakers were disqualified for improper oath-taking.
Outside Legco, about 200 people rallied against the joint checkpoint plan, including student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Occupy Central co-founders Dr Chan Kin-man and Benny Tai Yiu-ting, and former Bar Association heads Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Alan Leong Kah-kit.
The plan is part of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link, which is due to open in the third quarter of 2018. The rail line will require mainland Chinese officers to be stationed in Hong Kong to enforce mainland laws.
Wong, who was released from jail on Tuesday after being granted bail while he appeals his prison sentence for taking part in an unlawful assembly, said he had been concerned about the plan in prison and urged Hongkongers to continue opposing it.