Pro-democracy bloc suffers another blow as Hong Kong Legco approves more rule book changes for Finance Committee
Committee chairman Chan Kin-por says amendments are ‘reasonable’ and will ensure smoother scrutiny of spending proposals
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council on Thursday approved controversial rule book changes raised by the pro-establishment camp that would further restrict filibustering in the Finance Committee and pave the way for smoother passage of government spending proposals.
The move dealt another blow to the pro-democracy bloc, following 24 earlier amendments to the rule book that were passed in December.
Finance Committee chairman Chan Kin-por expected that the “reasonable” changes could save five to 10 hours of scrutiny on each contentious expenditure proposal tabled by the government, including one on the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.
“The [Finance Committee] is not an arena for political shows, but a place to get pragmatic work done for the good of the citizens,” Chan said, after the motions of the rule changes were passed with the support of pro-establishment lawmakers.
Some 20 amendments raised by the pro-democracy bloc were vetoed.
The camp’s members said the approved changes undermined the dignity of Legco.
“The pro-establishment camp is too short-sighted in focusing on efficiency,” Civic Party chairman Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said. “The dignity of Legco and the whole system matters much more.”
The new rule places a limit of one non-binding motion proposed by each lawmaker on an agenda item. Earlier procedures were stalled because each motion could be put to a vote and subjected to debate if passed.
The measure also bans lawmakers from requesting meeting adjournments. Under the current rules, they are allowed to request for both an adjournment and the discussion of an item. Each lawmaker can also speak once for up to three minutes to debate whether the meeting should proceed.
Chan said 24 hours were spent on meeting adjournments and handling such non-binding motions in the year 2016/17. He said he hoped the changes would ensure a smoother process.
The amendments will not only apply to the Finance Committee but also to its two subcommittees in public works and establishment, which examine the government’s construction works and structures of civil service respectively.
Changes to procedures of the Finance Committee require a simple majority, meaning the pro-establishment camp can still push the proposals through even if the pro-democracy camp is at full strength. The bloc had lost six lawmakers who were disqualified for improper oaths.
In December, the pro-establishment camp had already capitalised on the window of opportunity by the ousting of the six to push through 24 amendments to the Legco rule book.
The changes were staunchly opposed by pan-democrats, who said it would stop them from being an effective check on the city’s government, and allow the administration to bulldoze through controversial legislation.