A surprise move by pan-democrats forced deliberations on the co-location arrangements for the Express Rail Link to be suspended at the last minute on Wednesday.
On Tuesday last week, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the government would put off the stamp duty debate to a later date so that lawmakers can focus on a non-binding motion regarding the co-location arrangements for the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link. Legco passed the non-binding motion two days later.
Another motion was moved and passed on Wednesday to put off the second reading of the government’s Banking (Amendment) Bill 2017 to give way to the co-location discussions.
While the bill should then have been referred to the house committee as the normal practice, democrats found a way to stop it even though most pro-establishment lawmakers were in the chamber to prevent democrats from using the “roll call” strategy to cause adjournment of discussions.
Lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick moved to continue the bill’s second reading, citing No. 54(4) of Legco’s rules of procedure.
It was the first time the rule was cited since Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.
The surprise move forced Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen to call a recess for more than one hour to consider Chu’s motion before he finally accepted it.
As a result, the pro-establishment camp’s wish to debate the co-location plan failed to materialize and may only begin on Thursday afternoon at the soonest.
Asked by the media why he made such a decision, Leung said the rule cited by Chu is clearly set and therefore he had no choice but to approve it.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan said he believes the government will find corresponding measures to counter similar strategies by democrats in the future.
In a joint statement after Wednesday’s Legco meeting, 22 democrats said Chu’s motion was concurred in by their camp beforehand, stressing they will do everything they can to oppose both the co-location plan and changes to meeting rules proposed by the pro-establishment camp.
Starry Lee Wai-king, who heads the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, criticized the democrats for taking advantage of Legco’s rules of procedure to find a way to block the co-location plan. She said the move can only make citizens suffer.
Expressing her disappointment, Lam said society will make its own judgment on what happened. She expects discussions on the co-location plan to take two sessions and two days for each session.
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