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Hong Kong high-speed rail

Carrie Lam reverses threat to push forward mainland checkpoint plan without Legco approval

Hong Kong’s leader is ‘sad, disappointed and frustrated’ after motion to push the controversial plan forward in Legco fails

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 3:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 November, 2017, 11:29pm

Hong Kong’s leader on Friday walked back her threat to push forward with a controversial joint checkpoint for the cross-border railway to Guangzhou without the legislature’s support, while expressing her dismay that the plan was once again stalled.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor condemned the opposition lawmakers for using “as many tactics as they could” to filibuster a non-binding motion at the Legislative Council two days in a row, including on Thursday when chaos broke out in the chamber and forced an early end to the proceedings. The motion will not be discussed again until November 15.

“I feel very sad, very disappointed and very frustrated,” Lam said on the sidelines of a development forum on Friday.

Hongkongers ‘calm’ about joint checkpoint plan, top Chinese official says

Despite the setback, Lam softened her tone from last week’s hardline stance when she warned that the government could kick-start a “three-step process” to adopt the so-called co-location plan and not “sit back and watch” as lawmakers filibustered.

“I do feel that we could wait for the motion to be passed on November 15,” she said.

She said she was “very confident and very hopeful” that when Legco continues discussion on the plan, the motion would be put to a vote and hopefully passed on the same day.

Legco meets twice a week and the past four meetings have been spent debating the plan, which would give mainland authorities almost full immigration and customs jurisdiction over part of the West Kowloon terminal.

The government has said the arrangement is a practical necessity, but the pan-democrats claim it violates the “one country, two systems” principle that allows the city a high degree of autonomy.

Opposition lawmakers, who hold only 24 of Legco’s 70 seats, have adopted all sorts of tactics to delay the motion. Of the 36 hours spent debating it, 24 hours were spent on procedure and quorum bells.

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On Thursday, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick invoked an obscure clause in the rule book to force an additional debate on removing members of the press and public from the chamber.

Thursday’s session descended into chaos after Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung was kicked out of the chamber for protesting against a decision to cut short the debate over Chu’s motion, but not before another round of drama as his pan-democrat colleagues surrounded him to block security guards from ousting him.

That prompted three pro-establishment lawmakers to report the pan-democrats to police on Friday, accusing them of contempt for obstructing the security guards and interrupting proceedings.

“Enough is enough. It has happened before. It doesn’t mean that it should be tolerated any further,” legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu said.

However, Regina Ip Lau-suk yee, a pro-Beijing lawmaker and an executive councillor, said she did not believe the pan-democrats would be charged.

Lam slammed pan-democrats for their actions, saying their tactics had created a “ridiculous” situation.

Hong Kong’s opposition prevents Carrie Lam’s motion on joint rail checkpoint plan

She said she had outlined at least 200 initiatives that the government wanted to pursue in her maiden policy address, with many of them requiring funding or law amendment approvals by the legislature.

“If the Legislative Council is not able to conduct its normal business, then the chances of moving these efforts forward will be significantly compromised. That makes me very sad.

“Please give us a chance to serve the people of Hong Kong,” she said, appealing to the opposition lawmakers.

Watch: all you need to know about the Hong Kong-mainland rail link

Pan-democrats fired back at Lam‘s criticism with their own, saying the government was withholding information about the plan from the people.

“We do represent a large group of the population that have doubts about the co-location plan,” opposition camp convenor Charles Mok said. “And the government definitely has not provided enough evidence or information for us to truly explain why they came to this arrangement.”

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Speaking on a radio programme on Friday, Chu defended his actions on Thursday afternoon, amid criticism from the city’s News Executives’ Association.

“The Beijing government has ignored its own governing principle towards Hong Kong and the Basic Law, undermining the basic rights of Hong Kong citizens,” Chu said, referring to the co-location plan. “I hope the related media associations can be concerned with that in the same way.”

Courts may decide on joint checkpoint

Meanwhile, Lam appointed two more political assistants on Thursday, bringing a full team of 12 undersecretaries and 14 political assistants.

Lam said 12 of them were younger than 40 and eight were women, and that followed her goal of attracting more youths and women into the cabinet.