Improving the Rules of Procedure (RoP) to have a rational, solemn constitutional authority back is not only a victory for Hong Kong society at large, but also the best new year gift for Hong Kong people.
The opposition camp had been filibustering madly in the Legco for the past many years, which created chaos by almost paralyzing the Legco, holding up many important bills and people’s livelihood issues, and undermining Hong Kong’s vitality. Finally, the situation took a turn for the better after the Legco at the end of last year adopted the pro-establishment camp’s motion to amend the RoP. As a result, the Legco, which was once on the verge of a breakdown, is set to get back on track with less irrational filibustering, and the society will have a rational, solemn constitutional authority back. This is not only a victory for Hong Kong society at large, but also the best new year gift for Hong Kong people.
In fact, social discontent against the minority faction holding the entire Legco as “political hostage” has reached the critical point. As representatives of public opinion, the pro-establishment camp is duty-bound to conform with public opinion to fight for the society’s overall interests and Hong Kong’s fate.
Duty-bound to fight for Hong Kong
However, from discussion, formulation, submission to the Legco’s Committee on RoP, putting it on the Legco’s agenda, to my successfully moving it at a Legco meeting and the Legco approving it, it was never easy for the resolution, which was supported by the entire pro-establishment camp. During this period, opposition lawmakers again played “minority dictatorship”, demonstrating a crazier-than-before filibuster to stonewall the resolution, including irrationally calling for quorum counts, making lengthy speeches, tabling stacks of similar amendments, and putting forward adjournment of debate motions. The pro-establishment camp hopes this resolution can curb these filibustering tricks of abusing the RoP.
A total of 24 amendments to the Legco’s rule book were proposed. Every one of them was put forward after careful consideration and supported by adequate justifications through considering the Basic Law and other jurisprudence, the relevant rules of foreign parliaments, and the Legco’s social and constitutional responsibilities. The objectives are to improve and update the RoP and to strike a reasonable and appropriate balance between legislators’ right to discuss issues and the Legco’s effective exercise of constitutional authority and fulfillment of social responsibilities.
First of all, if we want “affairs can be carried on to success”, what is necessary is to “rectify names”. Our amendments, therefore, are to set out clearly in the RoP the constitutional and legal basis for the Legco president’s authority. The Basic Law, Hong Kong’s laws and the Legco’s RoP set down that, besides exercising the powers conferred by the Basic Law, the Legco president can also be empowered to deal more effectively with Legco procedures.
For example, one of the opposition’s common tricks is overwhelming amendments. Drawing reference from experience overseas, the RoP of the UK, Canada and other places have powered the heads of constitutional authorities to choose amendments. Therefore, our amendments also establish that Hong Kong’s Legco president has the discretion to choose amendments that are more effective and better drafted for Legco members to consider. In addition, similar amendments can be merged, and amendments to government bills that are judged to be meaningless, trivial and unreasonable cannot be moved.
Improve procedures to curb crazy filibustering
To prevent the opposition from irrationally calling for quorum counts to cause adjournments of Legco meetings, our amendments set things right by clarifying that the Committee of the whole Council is one of the Legco’s committees; the quorum requirement for meetings of the Committee of the whole Council shall be treated separately from Legco sittings, with the former being reduced from 35 to 20, which is in line with the relevant provisions of the House Committee. In addition, for the Legco president to convene meetings after adjournment to continue dealing with the remaining agenda as soon as possible so as to reduce the waste of valuable time, our amendments also empower the Legco president to specify any time or day to resume the meeting.
Anti-establishment should put aside grudges
Our amendments also update the Legco’s antiquated petition system: The system was based on the Westminster tradition as far back as 159 years ago. However, even the British Parliament has abolished this system. At present, under the UK’s new system, petitions are made by the public. If Hong Kong wants to retain this 19th century-originated system, it should at least make the petition system up to date.
First, based on the higher quorum for Legco sittings, our amendments correspondingly increase the quorum for submission of petition to the committee in order to follow the pre-1997 practice of keeping both quorum requirements in line. Second, in view of the Legco’s mature committee system, the select committee is no longer the only kind of committee for petition submission, so our amendments change it to submission of petition to the Legco for collective debate and consideration on whether to set up a select committee. In general, the new arrangements are: If 35 legislators stand up for a petition at the meeting, it will be dealt with by the House Committee; if the House Committee decides to appoint a select committee, the Chairman of the House Committee will move a motion to decide.
Due to limited space, this article only briefly introduces some of the amendments, but it is enough to show that the amendments address practical issues instead of targeting any individuals. On the contrary, it is reported that after the amendments were adopted, the opposition continued to protest and “wanted the pro-establishment camp to pay back a hundred times”. This resort to personal grudges and indulgence in factional fighting is never a blessing to society. In the new year, I hope the anti-establishment lawmakers will calm down, respect the wishes of the majority, and resume rational and pragmatic political discussions, so that there will be no factions in the Legco, and we work together for Hong Kong’s overall interests.
This is a free translation. For the exact meaning of the article, please refer to the Chinese version.
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