25 August 2019
Pro-establishment lawmakers fear that further tightening Legco rules might only spark another firestorm of controversy in society. Photo: Bloomberg
Pro-establishment lawmakers fear that further tightening Legco rules might only spark another firestorm of controversy in society. Photo: Bloomberg

Pro-Beijing camp not keen on further amending Legco rules

The Legislative Council Committee on Rules of Procedure (CRP) carried out a study in June on the feasibility of imposing new sanctions on lawmakers for misconduct during Legco meetings.

Then in September, the CRP launched an internal consultation by sending out a questionnaire to legislators to seek their views on how to deal with such behavior.

In the questionnaire, the CRP proposed several options, such as barring misbehaving lawmakers from attending the following Legco council meeting or a certain number of meetings and introducing a penalty mechanism that will have their salaries withheld during their period of absence or slap them with a direct fine.

On Tuesday, CRP chairman Paul Tse Wai-chun confirmed to us that he has already received replies to the questionnaires from Legco members.

According to Tse, lawmakers are quite clearly divided over the issue: pan-democrats are against any attempt to amend the Legco Rules of Procedure, while members of the pro-establishment camp are generally in favor of the suggestions put forward by the committee.

However, pro-establishment lawmakers have frankly expressed that even though they are in favor of the CRP proposals, the prevailing view among pro-establishment members is that they have no intention of further amending the Rules of Procedure at this point.

They noted that the pro-establishment camp has already succeeded in introducing major amendments to the Rules of Procedure earlier this year, which, among other things, allow the Legco president to resume the council meeting shortly after its adjournment, thereby nullifying any attempt by the pan-dems to mount filibusters or force the adjournment of meetings.

Moreover, members of the pro-establishment camp fear that further tightening the council rules might backfire and give the public a negative impression that they are throwing their weight around and taking full advantage of their majority status in the legislature.

Besides, the pro-establishment lawmakers added, even if the enhanced sanctions are passed, it would be difficult to enforce it in practice, not to mention the likelihood that it would spark another firestorm of controversy in society.

In short, the pro-establishment camp would rather stay put for now.

The pro-establishment lawmakers also dismissed speculation that they are just biding their time and would mount another onslaught against the pan-dems over tightening the Rules of Procedure after the Kowloon West by-election next month.

They maintained that the pro-Beijing camp is striving hard to get the seat in the upcoming by-election not because they want to amend the Rules of Procedures again, adding that most of them have no intention of amending the rules again.

As we can see, the pro-establishment camp considers the task of amending the Rules of Procedure a “mission accomplished”, and as such, it is very likely that the CRP consultation would eventually get nowhere.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 24

Translation by Alan Lee additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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