A Legislative Council bills committee that is looking into the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bill is scheduled to hold its first meeting on Feb. 12. At the meeting, members will elect the chairman and deputy chairman of the panel before getting down to real business.
According to sources from political circles, Beijing is taking the co-location arrangement bill very seriously, and has already ordered lawmakers of the pro-establishment camp to secure the passage of the bill before Legco takes its summer break in July this year. And the local legislation of the co-location plan has to be completed before the XRL begins operation in the third quarter. No delay is to be allowed.
According to the sources, Huang Liuquan, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, recently paid a visit to Hong Kong to coordinate efforts among the pro-Beijing camp.
Following the orders from Beijing, the pro-establishment camp is now on a war footing on the issue, and is prepared to send 30 of its lawmakers to join the bills committee in an attempt to outnumber and outgun the pan-democrats.
In order to guarantee that everything about the bill will be on course and on schedule during the scrutiny process, the pro-establishment camp is aggressively eyeing the chairmanship and deputy chairmanship of the committee, sources say.
It is said that the initial plans were that Martin Liao Cheung-kong, a barrister and a highly regarded whip of the pro-establishment camp in Legco and much trusted by Beijing, would take the job as chairman of the bills committee.
However, thanks to intense arm-twisting and lobbying by former Secretary for Security and leader of the New People’s Party Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Liao has agreed to give way to her, according to the sources.
It is believed that Ip’s election as the chairperson of the bills committee on Feb. 12 is almost a done deal.
As far as the position of the deputy chairman of the committee is concerned, Cheung Kwok-kwan, a solicitor representing the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), is expected to be a favorite for the job.
However, while the pro-establishment camp is ready to mount a full-court press in the committee to prevent the bill from being stalled by the pan-dems, sources also said there is widespread concern within the camp about whether the scandal-ridden Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah can withstand the pan-dems’ onslaught.
Given this, the pro-Beijing camp will perhaps have to rely more on Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan and Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu to press ahead with the bill.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 1
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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