25 October 2016
Chan Kin-por, chairman of the Legco Financial Committee, came under fire from the pro-establishment camp after he said he would grant fellow lawmakers the right to speak on a government funding request. Photo: HKEJ
Chan Kin-por, chairman of the Legco Financial Committee, came under fire from the pro-establishment camp after he said he would grant fellow lawmakers the right to speak on a government funding request. Photo: HKEJ

What do Star Wars and Hong Kong have in common?

As the latest Star Wars sequel, “The Force Awakens”, is taking the city by storm, it might be worth looking back on the last Star Wars installment 10 years ago, the “Revenge of the Sith”, whose plot, rather intriguingly, bears a remarkable resemblance to the current political predicament of Hong Kong.

“Revenge of the Sith” tells the story of how the senate of the Galactic Republic is falling apart as a result of the manipulation of its supreme chancellor, Palpatine, also a Sith lord, whose lust for power has grown completely unchecked and is threatening the unity and peace of the galaxy.

However, the Jedi knights, the guardians of the republic system, still pledge allegiance to Palpatine out of blind loyalty despite the fact that they have also noticed the senate under him has already become dysfunctional.

Alarmed by the growing ambition of the supreme chancellor, some senators begin to question whether the Jedi order should continue to defend a system that is already corrupted.

Isn’t the movie strongly reminiscent of what is going on in Hong Kong right now?

Ever since Leung Chun-ying took office in 2012, he has been turning a blind eye to the discontent and grievances of the public and his executive power has continued to grow unchecked. And thanks to his evil alliance with the pro-establishment camp within the Legislative Council, our legislature has also gone completely dysfunctional and its oversight powers are being given away eagerly bit by bit by pro-Beijing lawmakers who hold the majority.

In order to prevent unpopular bills from being blocked by the pan-democrats by means of filibusters, Jasper Tsang Yuk-sing, the Legco president, invoked cloture on several occasions, using his special power under the current Rules of Procedures.

Uplifted by Tsang’s moves, the pro-establishment legislators in charge of other committees in Legco, such as the House Committee and the Financial Committee, soon followed suit.

As a result, an increasing number of pan-democratic members on various committees are being denied their right to raise questions or even express their views during regular meetings in the name of ensuring legislative efficiency.

What the pro-establishment lawmakers are doing is simply turning our legislature into a mere rubber stamp at Leung Chun-ying’s disposal.

Then last Friday, it was Financial Committee chairman Chan Kin-por’s turn to flex his muscles. During a session discussing a funding request made by the government to create a new senior-level position to oversee and coordinate the preparation work for the construction of the third runaway at the Hong Kong International Airport, the pan-democrats again mounted a filibuster by making repeated requests to speak.

Suddenly playing the good guy, Chan, much to his pro-establishment colleagues’ surprise, gave them the green light and said he would make an exception this time and use his discretion to grant them the privilege of speaking on that particular subject.

His decision immediately put him under fire from the pro-establishment camp. Chan Kam-lam, a party stalwart of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, raised doubts about the decision and complained that the pan-democrats shouldn’t be allowed to speak on the matter again as it had already been discussed earlier at a subcommittee under the Financial Committee.

What Chan Kam-lam said only demonstrated his ignorance about council rules. Under the Rules of Procedures, the Financial Committee is not bound by the decisions made by any of its subcommittees.

In other words, any funding request that has already been discussed in subcommittees is subject to discussion again in the Financial Committee if the need arises.

In any legislature that is functioning properly, all of its members, regardless of their political affiliations, have the right to ask government officials questions and give their views over any public issue because they were elected with a mandate to do so.

It is their job and they are supposed to speak on behalf of their constituents, and their right to speak is absolutely not something that is left to the discretion of committee chairpersons. Only ignorant people would buy into such a notion.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 21.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal

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