The Legislative Council Secretariat has always strictly abided by the principle of political neutrality, its secretary general said, amid accusations that it is siding with the pro-establishment camp in controversies involving lawmakers.
Kenneth Chen Wei-on said the secretariat performs its function with professionalism and independence, adding that some of the criticisms hurled against it were almost tantamount to bullying and harassment, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Noting that such criticisms are unfair to his colleagues in the secretariat, Chen said: “We have always worked against the principle.”
His remark, delivered in English, caused some confusion, prompting him to say later, through a reply to media from the secretariat, that he should have found a better way of expressing himself.
The accusation against the secretariat came amid disputes between the pro-establishment and pan-democratic lawmakers in the bills committee, which is deliberating on the government proposal to amend the fugitives law.
In a special meeting held last Saturday, Legco’s House Committee earlier voted to replace Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who had presided over the committee’s first two meetings, with Abraham Shek Lai-him from the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, and released a guideline on the decision.
The secretariat subsequently issued a circular requiring members of the committee to respond in writing before Monday noon as to whether they agree to adopt the guideline.
The pan-democratic camp accused the secretariat of overstepping its authority and slammed Chen for staging what amounted to a “coup” by handing control of the bills committee to their rivals.
Chen on Sunday wrote to respond to the pan-democratic lawmakers’ criticism, saying the vote through writing to replace To was in line with Legco rules, but he refused to meet with the pan-dems.
Asked by media on Tuesday about the rationale behind the written vote, Chen did not go into details but only said he had made himself clear in the letter.
Chen added that he did not show up at the meeting requested by the pan-democrats because he was in discussion with the Legco’s legal department after he received a legal letter from the pan-dems. He said he was sorry for being absent.
As Chen was leaving after speaking to media, People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen walked up to him and asked him to explain his actions. Chen, however, did not respond, RTHK reported.
Chan then shouted to Chen: “You have a mouth, I have a mouth. You don’t have the guts to respond to me, Kenneth Chen!”
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang revealed he will move at a Legco House Committee meeting this week to have Chen removed from his post for dereliction of duty.
Pauline Ng Man-wah, who served as the secretariat’s secretary general between 2008 and 2012, said in a reply to media inquiries that the House Committee is indeed entitled to give a bills panel not only guidelines but also directions, and that its main functions include deciding how to handle a bill.
Ng, however, admitted that she had not encountered a situation during her term in which a bills committee failed to elect its chairman.
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