Hong Kong’s highest lawmaker is denying he broke any rules or compromised his impartiality after saying he took part in an online discussion with pro-establishment legislators during last week’s chaotic voting on the ill-fated election reform bill.
Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang said his role in the WhatsApp discussion was limited to ensuring smooth proceedings and a timely finish because of security concerns, according to public broadcaster RTHK.
He said he did not break Legco’s rules of procedure or compromised his neutrality as presiding officer of the chamber.
Tsang said he wanted to wrap up proceedings on time, adding most recent security-related incidents happened after nightfall.
The decision to speed up speeches and the voting was made because of the large crowd of competing groups that had gathered outside Legco, he said.
Tsang said it was his responsibility to ensure the safety of legislators and to keep the voting process safe.
He apologized to lawmakers from both political camps but stopped short of saying if he will resign.
However, he said some lawmakers are planning a no-confidence motion and that he is willing to hear what they have to say.
Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer in government and public administration in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the media leak of the WhatsApp conversation is worsening divisions among pro-establishment lawmakers.
Choy said the incident has become a matter of ethics and discipline which might raise an alarm in Beijing.
He said Tsang may have undermined the appearance of political neutrality of his office and may have a hard time regaining his standing among his peers.
Ip Kwok-him, deputy chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, expressed sadness at the leak.
“Group conversations [online] should be only be for private discussion,” he said.
Liberal Party lawmaker James Tien criticized a pro-government lawmaker for leaking the conversation to the media.
In a Facebook post, he said the whistleblower has no morals and is “worse than a pig”.
Tien said no member of his party was involved in the leak and that it strongly condemns whoever had a hand in it.
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