On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor threw everyone off guard by suddenly announcing that the administration was going to move a non-binding resolution in the Legislative Council on Oct. 25 urging lawmakers to endorse a “three-step process” in implementing the so-called co-location arrangement of customs and immigration facilities at the West Kowloon terminus of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL).
Lam’s decision sent a very bad political message to the public. It indicated that the government is not going to launch any public consultation over the co-location arrangement and that the “three-step process” it proposed regarding the implementation of the plan is a done deal.
The reason I call this a “bad political message” is that it has become apparent that the government is attempting to establish a new norm when it comes to pressing ahead with highly sensitive and controversial policy initiatives, under which it would substitute Legco debates and voting for direct public consultation, so as to guarantee their passage and minimize public opposition.
It is indeed a strong indication the government is dropping all pretense of democracy and going to impose its will on the people of Hong Kong over controversial policies, whether they like it or not.
That said, it appears Lam was only paying lip service to mending social rifts.
Some may argue that Lam’s decision to skip public consultation and seek Legco support directly is a politically expedient move and an exceptional case since our city needs to meet the schedule on the XRL project.
However, the truth is, it wasn’t the first time the government bypassed the public and sought Legco support directly on controversial issues. In 2002, former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa did so when he pressed ahead with his highly contentious principal officials accountability system.
As such, how could anyone call Lam’s decision “politically expedient” and “exceptional” when the truth is our government has been pulling the same trick over and over again?
What is even more sinister about Lam’s decision is that by moving a non-binding resolution over the co-location arrangement, she has virtually pre-empted any attempt by pro-democracy lawmakers to draw public and media attention to the issue by grilling government officials about it during the weekly Legco Q&A session.
It is because under the current Legco rules of procedure, once a particular subject is scheduled for debate, it can no longer be raised at the Q&A session.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 16
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]