Deliberations on the government’s proposed amendments to the extradition law are expected to be completed soon before lawmakers cast their votes next week.
According to Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, president of the Legislative Council, voting on the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 could take place as soon as June 20.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, a day before the controversial bill was to come up for second reading debate in the full legislature, the Legco chief said a total of 66 hours, categorized under two meetings, are being reserved for proceedings related to the extradition law, including 61 hours for lawmakers to deliberate on the bill and related amendments and the rest for the question time.
Elaborating on the schedule, Leung said the first meeting will have five sessions, spread over Wednesday and Thursday this week (20 hours in total), Friday morning (4 hours), next Monday (11 hours) and June 18 (11 hours), while the second meeting will have two sessions next Wednesday and Thursday (20 hours in total).
If everything goes as expected, the third reading of the bill, the final stage at which the bill will be put to vote, will take place next Thursday itself.
Leung pointed out that although there are 153 amendments to the bill, it only has 10 clauses, compared to 13 in last year’s Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bill.
As such, taken in comparison to other bills seen in the past, 66 hours of deliberations should be sufficient, Leung said, adding that the arrangements were made considering that the bill did not go through a bills committee for scrutiny as normal practice but had been discussed by the Legco’s Panel on Security for 20 hours.
Leung noted that the Legco has time constraints because there are four other bills and one government motion that needs to be dealt with before the legislature takes its annual summer recess in July.
In response to a question whether each lawmaker would be given less than one hour to speak, on average, during deliberations given the timeframe set for the debate, Leung said he will handle the process with flexibility if lawmakers make good use of their time.
At the same time, he warned that he could cut the debate time short if lawmakers continuously put forward points of order or cause chaos in the House.
As Leung was answering questions from the media, pan-democratic lawmakers Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, Au Nok Hin and Gary Fan Kwok-wai approached and stood beside the Legco chief holding a placard denouncing the extradition bill.
Security guards rushed in, and there was some pushing and shoving as they tried to remove the opposition lawmakers.
Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of the pan-democrats’ meeting group of lawmakers, slammed Leung for abusing his power with the aim of pushing the bill through Legco as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), which organized Sunday’s massive protest march that saw hundreds of thousands of participants, announced that the group will besiege the Legco building from Wednesday night.
It will call on workers, students and business owners to go on strikes from next Monday until Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor retracts the bill, Sham said.
The CHRH has notified the police force of its planned rallies outside the Legco building from Wednesday to Friday, promising that the activities will be conducted in peaceful, rational and lawful manner.
Despite the assurances, the group was yet to receive a letter of no objection as of Tuesday.
In the latest developments, the Legco full council meeting that was due to commence Wednesday morning did not begin at the scheduled time. According to a Legco secretariat announcement, meeting will commence later, with lawmakers to be notified of the revised schedule.
There is no announcement yet as to when, and if, it will take place today. The second reading of the extradition bill was originally scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
The delayed start comes as massive protests are currently underway in the area near the Legco, with demonstrators occupying Lung Wo Road and Harcourt Road, blocking traffic.
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