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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Pan-dems continue protest against Legco rule book change, ask for 97 motions to be debated first

The 97 motions include summoning government officials on policy matters and reprimanding the Legco president and chairwoman of its House Committee

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 December, 2017, 6:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 December, 2017, 11:00pm

Hong Kong’s opposition pan-democrats continued their protest against moves to change the Legislative Council rule book to curb filibustering by arguing on Friday that 97 additional motions should first be debated at next week’s council meeting.

The 97 motions fall mainly into two categories: one, to summon government officials to respond to questions on policy issues and two, to reprimand Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen and the chairwoman of Legco’s House Committee, Starry Lee Wai-king for how they have handled recent meetings.

Ironically, the pan-democrats had to lobby Lee – as the house committee prepares the agenda for the council’s weekly sessions – for their motions to be given priority when Legco meets again next Wednesday ahead of the resumption of the debate on proposed rule book changes.

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said: “Since the pro-establishment camp will win their battle on rule changes anyway, why not spare some time for us to do some practical things?”

But pro-establishment lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said: “The Legco should amend our flawed rules of procedures first, instead of dealing with these additional motions.”

A day earlier, when Legco began a marathon debate on changes to the rule book, pan-democrats staged a protest in the chamber, with many refusing to return to their seats. Security guards had to carry some of them back to their chairs after they repeatedly ignored Leung’s orders and warnings.

At Friday’s meeting, Lee started out by saying that the house committee would have to vote on whether to allow the additional motions to be tabled at a full council meeting, but after an hour of intense wrangling with the pan-democrats, she backed down and said she would leave the decision to Leung to make by next Tuesday.

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

The house committee is dominated by pro-establishment lawmakers, as is Legco, as 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.

The pro-establishment bloc thus has a window of opportunity to stamp out delaying tactics in the chamber, before the first by-election for four of the six seats takes place next March.

Five other motions are already tabled for next Wednesday although it is not clear if they will indeed be discussed first.

Pan-democrat lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick submitted his motions earlier this week on Tuesday, to summon ministers to give responses on ongoing development, infrastructure and public housing estate projects and about legislation.

Separately, veteran Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should explain whether the pro-establishment camp’s proposed rule book changes were in line with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Lam had said on Tuesday that it was reasonable for the Legco president to give lawmakers the green light to amend the body’s rule book.

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She did not refer to any of the amendments specifically, but one of the 24 proposed changes includes lowering the quorum requirement from 35 to 20 for certain types of weekly meetings of the 70-member council.

According to Article 75 of the Basic Law, “the quorum for the meeting of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be not less than one half of all its members.”

The pro-Beijing camp argued that the quorum requirement should not apply to council meetings that focus on scrutinising bills, as lawmakers are in those circumstances allowed to give an unlimited number of speeches.

The controversial amendments to the rule book were proposed by pro-establishment lawmakers to curb the delaying tactics of pan-democrats to block bills or motions they disagree with, though Leung had also allowed pan-democrats’ to propose their own amendments for debate.

In recent years, the pan-democrat camp has resorted to delaying tactics, such as calling for quorum counts and tabling stacks of amendments. These have resulted in proceedings grinding to a halt or meetings dragging on for longer than necessary.