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Carrie Lam

Hong Kong leader reveals backing for legislature changes, says some rules are backward

Carrie Lam offers support for plans to amend Legislative Council rule book to curb delaying tactics, and says good policies will heal social divisions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 November, 2017, 3:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 November, 2017, 9:04pm

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Thursday gave her backing to a bid by pro-establishment lawmakers for a tighter rule book in the legislature that would effectively curb filibustering, describing some current clauses as backward and “out of touch”.

The chief executive also admitted that her administration had encountered a bumpy ride since she took office on July 1 amid controversy over the jailing of three Occupy protest leaders. But she remained confident about mending social divisions in the city.

Lam’s remarks on amending the rules of procedure immediately drew fire from opposition pan-democrat lawmakers, who accused her of trying to “turn the Legislative Council into the national legislature” by making it harder to scrutinise government officials.

The pro-establishment camp is aiming to force through a number of procedural changes after they were handed a window of opportunity by the disqualification of six pan-democratic members over improper oaths of office, leaving the bloc’s numbers depleted.

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Pan-democrats have so far resorted to filibustering to block the proposed changes. The amendments would effectively curb such delaying tactics while also making it harder for the legislature to investigate government officials.

But Lam told former Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing on an RTHK programme on Thursday that the proposed changes were not targeting the pan-democrats.

“The rules of procedure have fallen behind and do not tally with today’s political system,” Lam said.

“It is impossible for the amendments to entirely curb filibustering.”

Lam said that if the amendments only eliminated clauses that were “out of touch” with society, then they should not be too controversial.

However, Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said Lam’s remarks reflected her wish to turn Legco into something akin to China’s National People’s Congress.

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To said Lam should not cooperate with the pro-establishment bloc in tightening the rules, since such a move would compromise the city’s “one country, two systems” governing principle which allows the existence of an opposition that can block government motions and bills.

Meanwhile, Lam also lamented on Thursday the difficulties she had faced in the four months since she took office.

“A number of controversies happened to erupt soon after our administration took over,” she said. “I have found it to be a very rough start.”

Lam said she had encountered a series of contentious events. In the past year the courts have disqualified six pan-democratic lawmakers over improper oaths of office, and have jailed three young Occupy leaders over an illegal protest in 2014. A plan for a joint immigration checkpoint at the Hong Kong terminal of a high-speed rail line to mainland China has also proved controversial, along with the pro-establishment camp’s attempts to tighten Legco’s rules of procedure.

In August Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a government bid to jail three Occupy activists, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang, over their roles in the run-up to the democracy movement of 2014. But the legal challenge by prosecutors was filed during the reign of Lam’s predecessor, Leung Chun-ying.

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The city’s top court will hear the trio’s appeal in January.

“All these issues are controversial in nature. It will be hard to reverse the situation immediately no matter how much sincerity I have and how many olive branches I have extended,” Lam said.

But Lam, who pledged to heal the city’s social divide in her election manifesto following the polarisation brought by the Occupy sit-ins, remained confident of achieving that goal.

Good policies would help mend ties, she said.