22 October 2016
Chan Yuen-han is taken by surprise as most of her  fellow pro-establishment legislators walk out of Legco (left). The official tally: 37 present, 8 for, 28 against. Photos: Apple Daily, HKEJ
Chan Yuen-han is taken by surprise as most of her fellow pro-establishment legislators walk out of Legco (left). The official tally: 37 present, 8 for, 28 against. Photos: Apple Daily, HKEJ

How pro-government legislators made fools of themselves

The defeat in the Legislative Council Thursday of the government’s proposal for the 2017 election for chief executive was widely expected — but no one could have foreseen the final vote count.

The package was overwhelmingly rejected, with only eight lawmakers voting for it and 28 against.

Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing described the result as a “very unfortunate accident”.

How did this happen?

Where were all the pro-establishment legislators who were supposedly going to vote yes?

Thursday morning, three minutes after Tsang announced the beginning of voting, lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, vice-president of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, raised his hand and asked the president to temporarily suspend the process.

Tsang turned down Lam’s request, saying it was too late, as voting had already begun.

All of a sudden, Lam and Ip Kwok-him, a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, stood up and walked out.

Most of the legislators from the pro-establishment camp herded together and followed the pair out of the chamber.

Those lawmakers were apparently trying to delay the voting by denying the proceedings a quorum.

Legco’s rules of procedure require a quorum of no fewer than half of all members — that is, 35 legislators — at a council meeting.

But the strategy didn’t work as planned.

Some pro-establishment legislators didn’t get the memo and had as little idea about what was going on as their pan-democratic opponents did.

Only eight pro-government lawmakers, including the Liberal Party’s James Tien Pei-Chun and Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions vice-chairwoman Chan Yuen-han remained seated.

With 37 legislators, including Tsang, still in the chamber, voting continued, resulting in the lopsided historic vote.

One pro-establishment lawmaker, medical sector representative Leung Ka-lau, voted with the 27 pan-democrats, who lived up to their promise to vote against the bill.

Lam was the first legislator to come out and explain to the media what had happened back in the chamber.

He said Heung Yee Kuk boss Lau Wong-fat, despite being unwell, had decided to come to Legco from his sickbed to take part in the historic vote, but was going to be delayed.

Lam said the pro-establishment legislators wanted to vote together, so they walked out of the chamber to buy time for Lau to arrive. A sheepish-looking Lau apologized for being late.

Ironically, Lam went on to criticize the pan-democrats for “bundling” their votes as a bloc instead of voting according to their conscience.

The incident shows that Lam does not have the ability to lead, as he clearly failed to communicate efficiently with his team, making the pro-establishment camp look like a joke.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, senior lecturer in the department of government and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the pro-establishment lawmakers had made a huge political mistake.

“More than once, the pro-establishment camp emphasized that the reform package had gained support from the majority in Hong Kong,” Post 852 quoted Choy as saying. 

“But it turned out only eight votes were in support of the constitutional reform. How could they explain such a jaw-dropping result to Beijing?” 

Netizens against the reform bill couldn’t stop making fun of the epic failure, joking that what the pro-establishment camp really wanted in their hearts was to oppose the package, so “they are just being honest to themselves”.

Some of them even described Lam as a “pig-like teammate”.

The expression comes from a Chinese saying, “god-like enemies do not scare me; pig-like teammates are more terrifying”. It is commonly used in sports to describe clumsy teammates who often make fatal mistakes.

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EJ Insight writer

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