Pro-Beijing camp has jitters over national anthem bill

September 12, 2019 19:16
Given the intense public distrust of the government these days, the pro-establishment lawmakers' apprehensions about the national anthem bill could be warranted, says the author. Photo: Bloomberg

Due to insurance issues, it remains uncertain whether Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor can deliver her annual policy address in the Legislative Council chamber as scheduled, although construction contractors have been working around the clock to repair the complex.

Meanwhile, there are also jitters among pro-establishment lawmakers over some long-overdue yet politically sensitive legislative initiatives and funding bills, which Legco may have to tackle when it resumes session in October. These include the national anthem bill and the Lantau Tomorrow Vision project.

Some pro-establishment lawmakers have reminded the government not to make the same huge mistake as the extradition bill and press ahead with these highly controversial bills, which might further undermine their prospects in the upcoming District Council elections.

Right now, their poll chances appear hanging by the thread following the outbreak of the anti-extradition bill movement.

Shortly after two million people took to the streets on June 16 demanding the withdrawal of the extradition bill, Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen announced that the resumption of the second reading of the national anthem bill would be postponed until after Legco returns from its summer recess in October.

An administration figure told us that although passing the national anthem bill is an order from the central authorities, Beijing didn’t set any deadline for accomplishing the mission.

Besides, since Legco won’t be returning to work until after the Oct. 1 National Day, when the national anthem will be at high risk of getting booed again by local crowds, there is simply no need for the government to rush the bill through the legislature.

Instead, the government figure said, the first and foremost task for the administration at this point is to reopen the Legco building as soon as possible.

Some pro-Beijing lawmakers believe that the Legco building will be at huge risk of getting stormed by protesters again on Oct. 1, on the day when the Legco session resumes, as well as the day when the chief executive delivers her policy address.

And as the Nov. 24 District Council election is just around the corner, the pro-establishment camp expects its election prospects to be affected by the extradition bill saga.

As a pro-Beijing figure has quipped, they are just “waiting for Armageddon”.

That said, the pro-establishment camp hopes that the government would think twice before deciding to push the national anthem bill through Legco before the DC elections, because, if it does so, it will simply be providing pan-democrats with extra ammunition and this is likely to spell disaster for pro-Beijing candidates in the DC race.

But another pro-establishment lawmaker suggested otherwise, and is in favor of dealing with the national anthem bill right away.

The lawmaker is not worried about its implications for pro-establishment candidates in the DC race because the national anthem bill didn’t see much public backlash when it was under scrutiny by the bills committee earlier this year, which means the public may be largely amenable to having it passed.

At the end of the day, the lawmaker said, what has to be done has to be done, no matter what.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu of the Civic Party saidpan-democrats have been against the bill since day one.

Yet the administration has never consulted their bloc about having the bill tabled for second reading when Legco returns from its summer break, he said.

Given the intense public distrust of the government these days, the pro-Beijing lawmakers' apprehensions and the pan-dems' "gentle reminders" about the national anthem bill could be warranted.

That said, Carrie Lam and her administration may need to boost their political sensitivity whenever they discuss any policy initiative in the coming days. They simply cannot afford to repeat their catastrophic mistake of misjudging the public sentiment over the extradition bill.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 11

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.