Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong lawmakers pass twice as many bills as previous year after ‘effective’ rule changes to tackle filibustering

House Committee chairwoman Starry Lee also attributes increased efficiency to better ties with administration

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 8:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 8:02am

The number of bills passed by Hong Kong’s lawmakers more than doubled this legislative year, following rule changes aimed at restricting filibustering.

The figures were announced on Tuesday by the leaders of the Legislative Council’s House Committee, which is tasked with scrutinising bills before they are tabled at full Legco meetings.

Of the 26 bills passed in the 2017-18 session from last October to July, 15 were introduced to Legco in the previous legislative year while the government submitted the rest this year.

In the previous year, Legco only managed to pass 12 bills.

Announcing its end-of-year figures, the committee also revealed that the government had submitted 22 bills to Legco this session, but only five arrived in the first half.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king, who chaired the committee, attributed the increased efficiency to changes to Legco’s rule book and better ties with the administration.

“There is a big difference in the council’s treatment of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and [her predecessor] Leung Chun-ying,” Lee said.

Proposed rule would make it easier to sanction misbehaving lawmakers

Last November, 24 rule changes were approved despite fierce opposition from the pro-democracy camp, whose influence in the chamber was much reduced after six of its members were disqualified by the courts for failing to take their Legco oath properly.

Among the changes, the quorum required for meetings focused on scrutinising bills was lowered from 35 lawmakers to 20, making it more difficult for the opposition to force adjournments by repeatedly calling for a headcount.

The pro-establishment camp found the changes to be “effective” in ensuring the smoother passage of bills, Lee said.

She said the “co-location” bill for a joint checkpoint at Hong Kong’s express rail terminus had been the most controversial one passed this year.

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, the committee’s deputy chairman, agreed that the relationship between Legco and the administration had improved from Leung’s time.

Kwok said more officials in the current administration were “willing to reach out” to lawmakers.

Both Lee and Kwok said they were expecting further controversial bills in the coming legislative year, highlighting the incoming national anthem legislation.

Although the government said earlier it aimed to table the bill before Legco’s summer recess in mid-July, the item did not make it onto the agenda of the last council meeting on Wednesday.

Lee, however, said it would not make a huge difference to the bill’s progress.

Kwok said the bill was not urgent and the government should provide as many details as possible, so people would not violate the law unknowingly.

“The national anthem is the anthem today and will be tomorrow,” he said.