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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Mainland border checkpoint motion on verge of moving forward as Hong Kong opposition runs out of filibuster options

Almost out of ways to block the motion in Legco, pan-democrats call nine quorum bells and halt Legco meeting for nearly two hours

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 9:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 10:42pm

A motion to push forward a controversial joint checkpoint plan for a high-speed rail link to mainland China was expected to pass on Thursday after opposition legislators nearly exhausted their filibustering tactics.

The Legislative Council finally began debating the motion on Wednesday after last week’s session was dominated by rancour and filibustering in an attempt to halt the non-binding motion on the so-called co-location plan. The plan would give mainland officials almost full jurisdiction over immigration and customs at part of the rail terminal in West Kowloon.

Running out of ways to block the motion in Legco, which is dominated by pro-establishment lawmakers, pan-democrats made a last-ditch effort by calling nine quorum bells, halting the meeting for nearly two hours on Wednesday.

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Opposition lawmakers have used different tactics to drag out the two previous weekly meetings, including on October 19 when they were able to force an early adjournment.

Eight pan-democrats also tabled amendments to the motion on Wednesday, accusing the government of forcing through the proposal without listening to the public, as well as undermining the “one country, two systems” governing principle that allows Hong Kong a certain level of autonomy.

“Almost full jurisdiction would be ceded to the mainland. How would one country, two systems sustain?” Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said. “For me, this co-location arrangement is even more horrible than Article 23.”

Hong Kong is required to enact national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s de facto constitution. The government’s last attempt to do so met massive protests in 2003, and the administration backed down.

“We have to make clear that we do not oppose the idea of a joint checkpoint. But we reject this arrangement tabled by the government,” lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said, arguing that the current proposal would sacrifice Hong Kong’s rule of law.

Abraham Razack, a pro-Beijing lawmaker who represents the real estate sector, slammed the opposition for filibustering.

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“Monitoring the government’s work does not mean upsetting the government for the sake of doing it,” Razack said, adding that the filibustering countered lawmakers’ duties of safeguarding the best interest of the public.

Debate was set to continue on Thursday morning. The government is expected to have the motion passed on Thursday night, after all 24 pan-democrats have had their time to debate.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday said she hoped Legco would pass the motion this week to allow the government to start planning the details of the checkpoint.

The government will have to sign a cooperation agreement with mainland authorities, then get the endorsement of China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, and finally get the plan approved back in Legco.