Lawmaker Lau Wong-fat has been absent from all Legislative Council meetings in the past three months after taking sick leave in October, investigative reporting website hk01.com reported Wednesday.
Barrister and Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit said Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing could be setting a bad precedent if he fails to explain why he is letting Lau, who represents the Heung Yee Kuk constituency, take unlimited sick leave on full pay.
Article 79 of the Basic Law gives the Legco president the right to declare a legislative councilor no longer qualified to hold that office.
Leong admitted that the Basic Law did not specify how many Legco meetings a lawmaker must miss to be considered unable to hold his or her office.
The discretion lies with the Legco president, but he needs to give an explanation to the public if he opts not to exercise that power, Leong said.
Lau, the rural kingpin who recently relinquished the reins of the kuk to his son, reportedly pocketed HK$279,120 in pay over the last three months without attending a single Legco meeting.
Lawmakers from the pro-establishment camp also called for Tsang to shed light on the case.
Legislator Ann Chiang Lai-wan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said Lau could not go on leave on indefinitely.
Fellow party member Starry Lee Wai-king, who is both a legislator and executive councilor, said it would be difficult for a lawmaker to carry out his duties after missing meetings for a prolonged period of time.
Lee said the health of Lau, public sentiment and the requirements of the Basic Law must all be considered.
Sheung Shui Rural Committee chairman Hau Chi-keung said there would be no point holding a by-election even if it is decided Lau should be removed from his position, as the term of office of the current crop of legislators comes to an end in September.
Hau said it is beyond Lau’s control that he has fallen ill.
Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said this is a case in point to illustrate the problems brought about by the functional constituencies.
A legislator elected by the public would be asked to resign by his or her constituents after an extended period of absence.
Lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions said there would be little benefit for the pan-democrats if Lau were to be removed, as his replacement would still come from the kuk and not the pan-democrats.
Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who chairs the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, Lau’s party, said he visited the former rural boss a while ago.
Leung refused to disclose Lau’s condition but said he is keeping tabs on Legco affairs.
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