The controversial Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 finally saw its second reading completed at the Legislative Council Thursday, following repeated delays earlier due to filibustering activities by opposition lawmakers.
The bill could, however, still be annulled if the LegCo fails to bring about a vote before the current session ends in mid-July, Ming Pao Daily reported.
The bill, dubbed “Cyber Article 23″ in reference to a mothballed national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law, has faced strong opposition from many locals who fear it may curb internet freedoms.
While pan-democratic lawmakers have been filibustering by making long speeches and repeatedly requesting a headcount to ensure quorum in an attempt to delay the bill from being moved to a vote, they appear to have miscalculated as pro-establishment lawmakers fought back by passing the second reading of the bill.
The second reading was concluded at about 5 pm, in a 37 to 25 vote.
Upset at the outcome, League of Social Democrats lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung was seen hurling his mobile phone on to the ground in a fit of rage.
But pan-democrats still have a chance to prevent the bill from being legislated.
Soon after the bill’s passage, Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan proposed a motion to transfer the bill to a new committee for in-depth consideration.
Should the motion pass, it would allow more time for lawmakers to re-negotiate the bill before it is moved to the “committee of the whole” stage again. But again, the majority pro-establishment lawmakers will likely vote down the motion.
Another matter that should be borne in mind is that the LegCo will be on Chinese New Year break from February 3. If the filibuster on the copyright bill does not end by that date, it may stall the government’s spending plans as 18 other bills are waiting to be passed.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told reporters Thursday that she hopes pan-democratic lawmakers will vote on it after debates, although she had said previously that it is likely that the government could pull the bill.
Commerce Secretary Gregory So Kam-leung said there is still enough time for the bill to be passed as long as lawmakers are willing to debate it enthusiastically.
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