Chaotic Legislative Council meeting sees 11 Hong Kong lawmakers miss chance to speak in rail checkpoint debate
In a first, the body’s president capped total debate time at 36 hours
Some 11 lawmakers were barred from being heard during a debate for the first time on a controversial joint checkpoint bill after the allotted time for discussion ended on Thursday evening.
Amid protests from opposition lawmakers, Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen deferred the vote on the second stage of the legislative process for the bill to next Wednesday.
In an unprecedented move, Leung earlier capped total debate time for discussion on the co-location bill at 36 hours, announcing the second reading would close at 7.30pm on Thursday and proceed to scrutinising amendments next week.
At the time, there were still six pan-democrats and five pro-establishment lawmakers waiting to speak.
Aside from annual budget debate, Legco has never set a cap on the debate time for any specific bill or piece of legislation.
Lawmakers earlier spent nine hours on a motion to adjourn the debate and eight hours on the second reading.
On Thursday evening, Leung invited a rebuttal from transport minister Frank Chan Fan. Chan’s speech was interrupted by protests from pan-democrats who claimed Leung had “abused his power”.
“I have been in Legco for more than 10 years and I am very disappointed that I did not get the chance to speak,” health service sector representative Dr Joseph Lee Kok-long said.
“As a veteran legislator, I have followed the rule and queue for the speech, but I was punished even though I did not speak in the adjournment debate.”
During the chaos, lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick was thrown out of the chamber for shouting from his seat.
After suspending the meeting for almost an hour to meet representatives from both camps, Leung called for an end to the meeting and did not say whether lawmakers would be allowed to continue to speak later.
“I will conduct the meeting according to Legco rules,” Leung said. However, he insisted that he had already made the decision to close the debate.
Pan-democrats insisted there was ample time before the summer break and lawmakers should be given the chance to speak for an extra one or two hours.
“[Leung] could have handled it better by allowing the few remaining legislators who didn’t have the chance to speak at the second reading stage and let them proceed, finish the speeches,” pan-democratic camp convenor Charles Mok said.
“Unfortunately the president chose to do it the hard way, including unreasonably ejecting one member and created a difficult situation for himself.”
The co-location bill seeks to allow mainland laws to be enforced in the West Kowloon terminus, which has drawn criticism from the legal profession for contravening the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law. The government earlier indicated the bill had to be voted on before the summer break in July in order for the high-speed rail link to begin operations in the third quarter of the year.