25 October 2016
The pro-establishment lawmakers made no secret of the fact they were worried about Beijing's response to the bungled walkout and couldn't care less about the reaction of the people of Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters
The pro-establishment lawmakers made no secret of the fact they were worried about Beijing's response to the bungled walkout and couldn't care less about the reaction of the people of Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Legco farce shows lack of discipline in pro-establishment camp

A dramatic blunder occurred Thursday when the “pocket it first” electoral reform package was put to the vote in the Legislative Council.

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, vice chairman of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, and Ip Kwok-him, deputy chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, led 30 other pro-establishment lawmakers to walk out of the chamber less than 30 seconds before the vote.

Among the legislators who stayed in the chamber, eight voted yes, including five from the Liberal Party, while 27 pan-democratic lawmakers plus Leung Ka-lau, the pro-establishment representative of the medical sector, voted no, defeating the reform package with a clear majority.

To redeem themselves, the pro-establishment lawmakers, which had in the past often criticized the pan-democrats for filibustering and abusing the Legco rules of procedure, once again resorted to their usual tricks of moving the goalposts to justify their bungled walkout.

They said they left the chamber in an attempt to defeat the quorum after Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing had denied their request for a 15-minute adjournment so that they could wait for rural kingpin Lau Wong-fat, who was stuck in traffic on his way to cast his vote.

This was, in fact, an even worse form of filibustering, because those who led the walkout were inciting others to violate Legco rules.

Their plot backfired because of poor communication and coordination, and the whole thing turned into a farce.

The fiasco put an end to the 20-month-long political reform campaign into which Beijing and the Hong Kong government had put so much effort.

As far as the democratic development of Hong Kong is concerned, although the defeat of the reform proposal might increase the prospect of the re-election of the highly unpopular Leung Chun-ying in the next election for chief executive, which will be back in the hands of the 1200-strong election committee, at least we have successfully blocked the attempt by Beijing to handpick a figurehead through a high-threshold, screened election in 2017.

In other words, the defeat of the proposal still did more good than harm to our society.

At the same time, the incident again exposed the hypocrisy and ugliness of the pro-establishment camp.

They deeply embarrassed themselves after the walkout by trying to distort the facts and divert criticism from their misconduct.

To make matters worse, those who were involved in the debacle tried to blame the failure of the walkout on their eight colleagues who remained in the chamber to cast their votes for the reform package — an accusation that is as ridiculous as it gets.

The fierce finger-pointing and back-stabbing among the pro-Beijing camp in the aftermath of the fiasco suggests that members of the pro-establishment camp all have their own secret agendas and are unified only on the surface.

Meanwhile, some pro-Beijing lawmakers, like Wong Kwok-kin of the Federation of Trade Unions, were worried that their stupid mistake might anger Beijing.

The fact that Legco House Committee chairman Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen went to Beijing’s liaison office to explain what happened clearly tells us to whom the pro-establishment lawmakers really pledge their allegiance.

These legislators, who took an oath to serve Hongkongers when they were elected, showed their true colors this time.

After the reform package had been roundly defeated, all they were concerned about was how their Beijing bosses might feel rather than what the people of Hong Kong might think, and they didn’t even bother to hide their worry.

The bizarre farce in Legco also indicated that the pro-establishment camp is made up of a bunch of ill-disciplined and demoralized political opportunists who get together only to serve their own interests.

It also illustrated that the pawns Beijing nurtures Hong Kong are reckless, unreliable and incompetent.

When things went wrong at the critical moment, all they did was point fingers at one another.

It remains to be seen how Beijing is going to re-establish its authority and image after the crushing defeat of its electoral reform plan, how it is going to hold the pro-establishment camp accountable for the defeat and how it is going to retaliate against the pan-democrats.

This article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 22.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal

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