19 October 2018
It would be quite impractical to expect the government not to pursue court costs against the four disqualified lawmakers. Photo:
It would be quite impractical to expect the government not to pursue court costs against the four disqualified lawmakers. Photo:

Carrie Lam reconciliation plan relies on pro-Beijing camp

As the High Court decision last Friday to disqualify four localist lawmakers has thrown the pan-democrats into disarray and taken a heavy toll on relations between the executive branch and the legislature, it appears that Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s painstaking efforts to facilitate reconciliation with the opposition are bound to go up in smoke.

The pan-democratic camp is now on a war footing against the administration, and some members in the opposition have recently set several conditions for a “truce” with the government as a last-ditch effort to prevent an all-out confrontation between the two sides.

However, it seems the majority of mainstream pan-democrats are not keen on a “truce” with the administration, as none of them echoed these conditions after a roundtable meeting in the pan-democratic camp on Monday.

Besides, some of the conditions offered by these opposition members are simply too difficult for the government to meet.

For example, one condition is that the administration must promise not to seek recovery from the four disqualified lawmakers of the court costs incurred by the Department of Justice.

Yet, it is difficult for the government to meet this condition because it involves public money, not to mention the fact that the lawsuits are not over yet as the four lawmakers may appeal against their disqualification.

Likewise, it would also prove difficult for the government to meet another condition that it must not hold the by-elections for the six vacant Legco seats (the four localist lawmakers plus the Youngspiration duo who were already disqualified last year) in one go in order to allow the pan-democrats to reclaim all their lost territories.

It is because it would be hard for the government to justify spending extra taxpayers’ money to hold the by-elections successively just for the sake of the pan-democrats.

As for another condition that the administration must not take advantage of the fact that the pan-democrats have been crushed and become the minority in Legco and seize the opportunity to amend the current Rules of Procedure of Legco in order to ban filibusters, government sources said the executive branch has no say in this matter because it is purely an internal affair of the legislature.

And since the pro-establishment camp now holds the majority of seats in both the functional and geographical constituencies, it is therefore entirely up to it to decide whether to amend the Rules of Procedure so as to seal their total victory. However, sources also added that the government hopes that the pro-Beijing camp would go easy on the pan-democrats over this issue in order not to further fuel the current touch-and-go situation in Legco.

Yet, given the presently intense excitement within the pro-Beijing camp at the disqualification of the four localist lawmakers, it would be a daunting task for Carrie Lam to talk them into being more lenient on the pan-democrats.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 18

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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