Fugitive bill: How pro-Beijing camp can easily have its way

May 23, 2019 12:07
A Legco House Committee meeting to discuss the fate of the bills committee on the extradition law appears somewhat meaningless given that the government has already decided to put the matter before the full House, an observer says. Photo: Bloomberg

The Legislative Council's House Committee is set to discuss on Friday the “way forward" for scrutiny of the government's proposed extradition law changes.

In other words, the panel is going to decide on the fate of the Bills Committee on Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019.

The House Committee meeting would seem meaningless, as Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu already announced on Monday that the he had issued a letter to Starry Lee Wai-king, chairman of the House Committee, asking for a second reading of the bill to be resumed on June 12.

Although bypassing the bills committee appears to have become a done deal after the government’s announcement, it doesn’t mean the pan-dems will give up fighting.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of the pro-democracy camp, has told us that 24 pan-democratic legislators have signed a joint letter expressing outrage at the government’s decision, and that she intends to move a motion at the House Committee meeting on Friday demanding the resumption of the bills committee’s scrutiny work.

However, it is said that Holden Chow Ho-ding of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has already submitted a motion to the House Committee proposing to dissolve the bills committee immediately.

If that is the case, Chow’s motion will almost for certain pass the House Committee while that of Mo will be thrown out, given that the pro-establishment camp holds a greater number of seats than the pan-democratic camp on the panel.

But even so, a pan-dem has said that members of the pro-democracy bloc won’t sit still at the meeting tomorrow and allow Chow’s motion to be passed just like that.

Given the situation, protests would be inevitable at Friday's meeting. However, the pan-dem has stressed that the camp has no intention of letting things spin out of control by behaving too ferociously.

In the meantime, a pro-establishment lawmaker has proposed another option to avoid chaos and clashes at the upcoming meeting: invoking Rule 21(r) of the Legco House Rules, which says, “A Bills Committee will be dissolved as soon as the bill it has considered passes through the Council, or when the House Committee so decides.”

This would mean the House Committee can either take a vote on the fate of the bills committee, or simply put the bills committee on hold.

Once put on hold, the bills committee will be automatically be “certified dead” after the proposed law changes are passed at the council meeting, thereby saving a lot of trouble and quarrels between two rival camps.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 22

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.