Date
13 December 2017
Some in the pro-establishment camp are optimistic about the passage of the proposed amendments before the Legco by-elections in March. Photos: HKEJ/CNSA
Some in the pro-establishment camp are optimistic about the passage of the proposed amendments before the Legco by-elections in March. Photos: HKEJ/CNSA

Beijing may interpret Basic Law over Legco rule change

According to Legislative Council President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, the joint debate on the proposed amendments to the Legco rules of procedure can start in the next council meeting on Dec. 6 at the earliest.

Some in the pro-establishment camp are optimistic about the passage of the proposed amendments before the Legco by-elections in March.

On the other hand, even though Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung has said that the government would not take sides over the issue, the fact that the administration has stopped submitting new bills to Legco for scrutiny in recent weeks has aroused suspicions that it is trying to clear the schedule of the legislature so as to enable the debate and voting on the proposed amendments to take place as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the pro-establishment camp has shown ruthless determination and unwavering unity in pushing its proposed amendments through Legco, and failure is obviously not an option this time, regardless of the fact that some of its proposed amendments are not only highly controversial but may also be unconstitutional.

For example, it has proposed that the quorum for the Legco general meeting every Wednesday be reduced from the current 35, or half of all lawmakers, to just 20.

Yet, Article 75 of the Basic Law stipulates that “[t]he quorum for the meeting of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be not less than one half of all its members”.

The pro-establishment camp is well aware that once this amendment is passed, the pan-democrats are very likely to seek a judicial review against it, and chances are, the court might rule in their favor.

However, even so, the pro-establishment camp is determined to press ahead with this amendment because they know Beijing has got their back.

According to some in the pro-establishment camp, if, in the worst-case scenario, the pan-democrats win the judicial review lawsuit, this does not rule out the possibility that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee might once again invoke its powers to interpret the Basic Law.

It could rule that Article 75 only applies to the moment when the council meeting begins and during voting. Therefore, no matter what happens, the reality could be that the amendment is likely to be passed and enforced one way or another.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 21

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RA

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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