Legislative Council of Hong Kong

‘It’s OK to be a punching bag’, says Hong Kong Legco president Andrew Leung in issuing his own report card

Leung, who survived a no-confidence vote on Thursday, says the lack of legal challenges against his decisions shows he has been ‘fair’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 7:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 10:38pm

One day after surviving a vote of no-confidence stemming from his handling of a recent debate, Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said he had resigned himself to being a “punching bag” for lawmakers.

“No matter how I chair the meeting, there’s always accusations that I’m being unfair or biased, and it’s not coming from a single camp.

“As president, it’s okay to be a punching bag,” Leung told a press conference to wrap up the year’s Legco session. The council’s summer recess begins tomorrow and it will reconvene in October.

Pan-democrats are sore at Leung, most recently for how he managed discussions on a controversial joint checkpoint arrangement that will see mainland law applied at the cross-border high-speed rail terminus in Hong Kong. The bill was passed with the backing of 40 pro-establishment lawmakers from the 68-member council.

To ensure the bill would go through in time for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link to open in September, Leung capped the length of the debate at 36 hours, threw out a host of amendments proposed by pro-democracy lawmakers and kicked five of them out of meetings.

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On Friday, dismissing accusations that he was biased towards the government, Leung maintained his decisions were grounded in Legco’s rules of procedure and Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

“If I really had been an unfair referee, I would have been facing judicial reviews, right?” Leung said, stressing that there were no legal challenges against his rulings and challenging the opposition camp’s “legal talents” to dispute this.

In the past year, Leung kicked pan-dem lawmakers out of the chamber on 19 occasions – with the Democratic Party’s Ted Hui given the boot three times.

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One of the more dramatic incidents took place last December, when 11 pan-dems were sent packing before pro-establishment lawmakers passed 24 amendments to the rule book. They claimed it would curb filibustering and make Legco more efficient but their opponents said it would allow the administration to bulldoze through controversial legislation.

On Thursday, 35 pro-establishment lawmakers shot down a no-confidence motion against Leung proposed by pan-democrat lawmaker Joseph Lee Kok-long and backed by all 25 members of the camp.

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Asked what he would improve, he said: “I think a closer working relationship with the pan-dems and the pro-government camp may be the one thing I need to work harder on.”

But, he added, “whether you like it or not, we have achieved a lot this year”.

Legco passed 27 bills in this session – more than double the 12 bills passed last year. The council also held 42 meetings over 520 hours.

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Leung did not rule out setting a deadline for future debates on controversial bills, saying this would depend on how urgently they needed to be passed. A bill to criminalise insulting the Chinese national anthem is among the significant items to be debated in the new legislative year.

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said respect for the president “does not come from lawsuits”.

“If he does not respect the members, or does not warrant the member’s respect, that’s where the problem is,” Yeung said.

Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party said the pan-dems would continue with its practice of criticising the president if he misused his powers.