Date
30 March 2017
Filibustering used to be considered as uncivilized and chaotic, but it has emerged as the only effective way to challenge CY Leung’s administration. In South Korea, lawmakers set a world record for the longest filibuster on Sunday. Photos: Reuters
Filibustering used to be considered as uncivilized and chaotic, but it has emerged as the only effective way to challenge CY Leung’s administration. In South Korea, lawmakers set a world record for the longest filibuster on Sunday. Photos: Reuters

Pan-democrats stretch the cloth to winning form

Add filibuster into the local dictionary because it is one of the few words whose essence emerged from Hong Kong, not China.

In Chinese, the equivalent term for filibuster is “to stretch the cloth”.

Wasting time is pointless and unproductive in most cases. But in the hands of the pan-democrats it’s a powerful weapon to paralyze Leung Chun-ying’s administration and delay the implementation of social and economic projects.

Abuse of filibuster is also a handy excuse used by the pro-establishment camp to criticizse pan-democrat candidates such as Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung and Hong Kong Indigenous’ Edward Leung in yesterday’s by-election. 

Yeung edged out pro-establishment candidate Holden Chow in the election, and Leung came in a strong third.

Seemingly helpless to tackle the filibusters, the government appears to have changed its strategy by making peace with the democrats.

First, CY Leung said publicly he would be willing to attend the 20th anniversary of the Democratic Party, although he didn’t.

Then Chief Secretary Carrie Lam hinted that the government might shelve the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, widely known as the Internet Article 23, although she said it was not up to her to decide on the matter.

Another concession was made over the weekend for the government to stop pressing ahead with the extra funding for the Express Rail Link between Hong Kong and Guangdong, a project that Beijing expects CY Leung to deliver.

All these retreats, softening or U-turns came as a result of the democrats’ filibusters, which are holding up other important government bills in the pipeline, including the budget.

Indeed, filibusters, which were denounced by many moderate pan-democrats as uncivilized and chaotic in the past, have now become the most common and effective weapon used by the opposition to challenge CY Leung’s administration.

The new trend also highlights one of the most difficult and less harmonious periods in Hong Kong’s legislative history.

Given the tightening political environment in Hong Kong, it seems that filibusters are the last option in Legco before frustrated Hongkongers take to the streets.

How long filibusters will be a staple in our legislative process is anybody’s guess. 

It could get worse this year, just like the property market, especially if more radical democrats, independence advocates and young reformers are voted in the Legislative Council elections in September.

Filibusters are not an easy thing to do. Those in doubt should try to prepare a speech for an hour and try to deliver it with conviction. It takes a lot of research, and defintely courage, to make a good presentation.

The bad side of filibusters, which some compare to a zero sum game with no winner, is that they make people apathetic to issues because of the long delays in resolving them.

But we read with much interest that South Korean lawmakers who set a record in filibuster by continuing the action to more than 115 hours as of Sunday afternoon.

That broke a previous record of a 58-hour session by the New Democratic Party in Canada in 2011.

In Seoul, 23 lawmakers spoke an average of five hours each to oppose an anti-terrorism bill.

I’m sure our indefatigable pan-democrats can easily top that when the occasion calls for it.

S Korean lawmakers set world record for longest filibuster (Feb. 29, 2016)

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BK/JP/CG

EJ Insight writer

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