On Nov. 5, the Legco debate over a motion by pan-democrats seeking to amend the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance to make it applicable to the Chief Executive was brought to a halt when the council meeting was aborted due to a lack of quorum.
The debate continued on Nov. 11 but unfortunately, many pro-establishment lawmakers abstained when the motion was put to the vote. It was defeated under the split voting system.
History will remember that day. The pro-establishment lawmakers who didn’t support the motion will be remembered for aiding and abetting the abuse of power by the SAR government.
Undoubtedly, the defeat of this motion will further undermine the rule of law in our city which is already hanging by a thread.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who once said in public that a place had already been reserved for her in heaven, repeated in her speech during the debate that any amendment to the existing Prevention of Bribery Ordinance must be subject to the closest and most careful scrutiny as it may touch on the political framework of the HKSAR and the constitutional status of the Chief Executive as laid down in the Basic Law.
She also said the administration is now carrying out an extensive study on the issue, and once the study is finished, the government will examine the results and start the official procedure for changing the law accordingly.
Meanwhile, the former Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is facing criminal charges for misconduct in public office and the incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is accused of failing to declare having received a huge sum of payment from an overseas company.
Both cases highlight what some lawmakers said is a long-standing gap in the anti-graft law in Hong Kong.
Even an average citizen would agree that changing the existing law is both urgent and necessary in order to prevent future chief executives from exploiting the legal loopholes for their own interests.
So what is the government still waiting for? Is the Department of Justice dragging its feet because it is simply too lazy, or because it is deliberately skirting the issue?
How could such a shameful act against public interest earn our Secretary Lam a place in heaven?
During the meeting the condescending Chief Secretary must have been so deeply irritated by the pan-democrats’ sharp criticism of her stance that she couldn’t help lashing out at them in her concluding speech, blaming them for disrupting Legco meetings through filibusters.
With her feathers ruffled, she changed the subject and started complaining about the Legco’s failure to amend its rules of procedure in order to ban filibusters.
Lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip asked whether it was against Legco protocol for a senior official like Secretary Lam to waste so much time on long digressions.
But Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, the acting Legco president who chaired the meeting, ignored Chan’s question and allowed her to continue her meandering speech.
On the same day the motion was defeated in Legco, the original copy of the Magna Carta was on exhibit at the Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery in Admiralty.
Two days before the exhibition, Caroline Wilson, the British consul general to Hong Kong and Macau, published an article in several major local newspapers, in which she described the Magna Carta as a “milestone” since it is the first ever document in human history that laid down the principle of the rule of law, something widely regarded as a universal value by people around the world today.
She also pointed out that the Magna Carta forms the cornerstone of the common law system, which now governs most of the developed parts of the globe, including Hong Kong.
On the other hand, speaking before the Parliament during his official visit to Britain in late October, President Xi Jinping stressed that China is working aggressively to press ahead with “rule by law” across the country and made a vow to uphold the principle of everyone being equal before the law.
He added that the Chinese people’s respect for the law dates back to as early as 4,000 years ago.
Isn’t it ironic that while the Magna Carta was on display in Hong Kong and President Xi had pledged to govern his country according to the law, our own legislature trampled the principle of the rule of law by vetoing a motion to make sure nobody in our city is above the law including the Chief Executive?
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 16.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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