Pro-establishment lawmakers want To ousted from bills panel

May 02, 2019 14:52
Democratic Party lawmaker James To questioned whether the House Committee has the authority to order his replacement in presiding over the meetings of the bills panel. Photo: HKEJ

A Legislative Council bills committee formed to deliberate on the government proposal to amend the extradition laws was still unable to elect a chairman during its second meeting on Tuesday, preventing the panel from discussing the controversial measure.

Pro-establishment lawmakers have voiced dissatisfaction with how Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun was presiding over the meetings as the most senior member of the committee and the entire Legco, and asked the House Committee to issue guidelines to remove To, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Two weeks ago, the Legco Secretariat had said the most senior lawmaker should preside at the first meeting of the bills committee to elect the panel's chairman, and as such, To, being the most senior legislator attending the meeting, could decide whether to extend or reschedule it.

But the pro-establishment lawmakers accused To of delaying the selection of a committee chairman, and said he should be removed from presiding over the meetings that have been both filibustered by the pan-democracy lawmakers.

In a joint letter issued after Tuesday’s meeting, they asked the House Committee to issue guidelines for replacing To with Abraham Shek Lai-him from the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, who is the most experienced pro-establishment lawmaker.

Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest political party in the legislature, said the House Committee, which she chairs, will hold a special meeting on Saturday to discuss the matter.

In a radio program on Wednesday, To questioned whether guidelines from the House Committee could circumvent Legco’s Rules of Procedure, which lay down the process of electing the chairman.

To also questioned if the House Committee has the authority to order his replacement, and suggested that doing so could bring into question the legality of the panel’s work, RTHK reported.

He insisted that he has been fair and impartial in presiding over the panel's meetings, and warned that replacing him would spark a public backlash, according to the report.

To also said it was very unfair that the pro-establishment camp did not request his replacement until after the meeting, adding that whoever acts as the panel's chair should deal with any questions raised by its members.

All the 23 pan-democratic lawmakers have jointly sent a letter to Lee, demanding advice from the Legco’s legal adviser.

Lee told another radio program on Wednesday that since the House and bills committees have a “mother-son” relationship, the former has the authority to instruct the latter, which would follow its guidelines, otherwise the bills panel may have to be disbanded.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun said having Shek as the one presiding over the committee  is just one option. He noted that after To, the second most senior legislator is Leung Yiu-chung while Shek is only third.

Asked why the pro-establishment camp skipped Leung but recommended Shek to replace To, Lee said it is not proper for her to answer the question as the House Committee chair, although she believes it is because the pan-dems have already said they would do filibuster during the bills committee's deliberations.

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