Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam hopes to restore calm after vote stops lawmakers’ ‘Taliban-style hijack’

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Paul Tse said pan-democrats had forcing others to use more violent means to restore order, drawing comparison with political movement in Afghanistan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 10:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 11:19pm

Hong Kong’s leader hopes peace and rationality will be restored in the city’s legislature, one day after 11 democratic lawmakers were thrown out of the chamber in a failed bid to block the passage of amendments to curb filibustering.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she was still eager to improve ties with the pan-democrats, although a former government adviser feared the latest debacle had further strained the relationship.

One of the pro-Beijing lawmakers who supported the vote admitted it was a lose-lose outcome for all, but insisted it was necessary to stop a “Taliban-style” hijack from the opposition camp.

Under a highly charged atmosphere on Friday, the Legislative Council passed 24 amendments to the Rules of Procedure.

The pan-democrats decried the amendments, saying they would strip them of the power to impose checks and balances on the government.

But the pro-establishment bloc, which enjoys a majority in the legislature, said they were necessary to limit filibusters and allow the council to run effectively.

Speaking at a public appearance in Victoria Park on Saturday, Lam was careful not to take sides in the dogfight between the opposing camps.

“Changes to the Rules of Procedure belongs to the internal affairs of Legco,” she said.

But she said it was inevitable that some lawmakers felt the need to “respond to the public’s demands”.

“Some lawmakers felt filibustering was worsening – since October, there was not much concrete work achieved in the council,” the city’s leader explained.

The chief executive would not speculate whether the vote would hurt the relationship between the government and the pan-democrats, only saying she remained committed to communicating with lawmakers across the spectrum.

Showdown in Legco over changes to its rule book: What’s fuelling the continuing clash?

But Lau Siu-kai, former head of the government think tank Central Policy Unit, believed ties between the two sides would be strained “to a certain extent”, although he was not worried that the pan-democrats would resort to more radical protests.

“They might lose even more public [support] by engaging in political protests, judging from the past few months,” Lau said on a radio show.

Paul Tse Wai-chun, one of 38 lawmakers who voted for the amendments, said there were no winners from the bitter outcome.

Speaking at a seminar on rule of law, the lawyer insisted the pro-Beijing camp was left with no choice.

“A group of lawmakers openly disregard the system … and engage in a Taliban-style hijack of the council, forcing others to use more violent means to restore order,” he said.

Another speaker, barrister and former lawmaker Margaret Ng Hoi-yee voiced her concern about the constitutional validity of lowering the quorum from 35 to 20 during meetings to scrutinise bills.

“I find it disappointing that neither side of the camp was interested in this, as this may affect the validity of future legislations,” she said.