Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Opposition pan-democrats vow to block changes to Legco rule book

Legislative Council gets set for marathon debate on proposed amendments to rules of procedure on Thursday

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 11:39pm

Hong Kong’s opposition pan-democrat lawmakers vowed to block their political rivals from amending the Legislative Council’s rule book on Wednesday, saying that the changes would pave way for the government to “bulldoze draconian legislation” through the legislature.

Lawmaker Charles Mok, convenor of the pan-democratic camp, made the pledge as Legco is set to kick off its marathon debate on changes to its rules of procedure on Thursday, with amendments proposed by pro-establishment lawmakers to curb the delaying tactics of pan-democrats to block bills or motions they disagree with.

The debate was originally scheduled to start during the council meeting on Wednesday, but after Legco’s weekly question-and-answer session with ministers, pan-democrat lawmakers spent more than five hours arguing against a motion from the pro-establishment camp to adjourn a session to scrutinise subsidiary legislation. Such legislation would take effect without Legco approval.

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The adjournment motion was tabled by pro-establishment lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok to make way for the debate on changes to the rule book.

Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen adjourned the meeting at 7.40pm, and lawmakers will seek to start debating the changes to the rule book as they meet again on Thursday morning.

On the pan-democrats’ arguments, pro-establishment lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun countered that the delaying tactics had deprived the legislature of its power to monitor the government.

“In the past, when we were supposed to be debating [policies], time was used to handle … filibustering, and the council was not functioning at all,” Tse said.

Pro-establishment legislators have a window of opportunity to amend the rules before the first by-elections to fill four of the six vacant seats are held on March 11.

In recent years, the pan-democratic camp has resorted to delaying tactics, such as calling quorum counts, making long speeches and tabling stacks of amendments, resulting in proceedings grinding to a halt or meetings dragging on longer than their rivals or government officials would expect.

The pro-establishment camp is set to move 24 proposals this week to amend the rule book, with pan-democrat lawmakers unlikely to be able to block the amendments.

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The pro-democracy bloc was significantly weakened after a court stripped six lawmakers of their seats for improperly taking their oaths of office after the Legco elections last year.

Speaking on the sidelines of the council meeting, Mok argued that it was in Hong Kong people’s interest that his camp keeps the power to filibuster.

“If we really lost this battle … and the amendments can be passed, the government’s draconian legislation in the future such as Article 23 can also be bulldozed through the Legco in the same way,” he warned.

Mok was referring to the article in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, under which the city much enact its own national security law. The city’s government shelved the Article 23 bill in 2003 after half a million people took to the streets to oppose it, but Beijing officials and pro-Beijing politicians have been calling for it to be revived.