Pan-dems fail in bid to cut funding for police, CE office

March 26, 2020 13:18
The Legislative Council on Wednesday passed the government's request for a HK$215.9 billion package to fund its services. Photo: Now News

The Legislative Council passed the government's request for a HK$215.9 billion package to fund its services, frustrating attempts by pan-democratic lawmakers to stall its approval, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The government had asked the legislature for the amount to help cover expenditures before the budget proposals for the 2020-21 fiscal year are approved.

The pan-democrats, however, sought to block the package as part of the amount was for the police force, which they accused of abusing its power in dealing with protesters in last year's social unrest.

The night before Wednesday’s Legco meeting to continue deliberation on the funding request, the pan-democrats wrote to Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen asking him to suspend all discussions unrelated to the Covid-19 outbreak.

They also said in the letter that the Legco should heed public opinion and amend the budget bill to delink the funding for both the police force and the Chief Executive’s Office from other spending proposals in the 2020-21 budget, otherwise they would block the funding.

But Leung pointed out in his reply that as Hong Kong is at a critical moment in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, all lawmakers should give top priority to the overall welfare of society.

He also said the longer the deliberation on the funding request dragged on, the higher the risk that people in the Legco building would get infected with the virus.

Leung noted that it took the Legco eight hours last week to debate on the proposed funding but ended up unable to finish the deliberation, and another four hours on the motion to adjourn the debate.

When the Legco meeting resumed on Wednesday, pan-democratic lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick from the Council Front, who moved the motion, accused the government of pushing citizens to the edge of the financial cliff just to give more money to the police.

Two other pro-democracy lawmakers – Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung from the Labour Party and Andrew Wan Siu-kin from the Democratic Party – moved amending motions to cut the funding request for the Chief Executive’s Office, which they said has failed to meet public expectations in the fight against the pandemic.

The motions, however, ended up being vetoed.

In his closing speech, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Henry Lau Jr. said the pan-democrats' motions to amend the funding request are unfounded, extremely unreasonable and not in the public interest.

Lau said a funding cut for the Chief Executive’s Office will severely affect its functions, especially in coordinating work to prevent and control the spread of the coronavirus, while that for the police force will deprive it of sufficient resources for daily operations.

As none of the pro-establishment lawmakers took the floor during the Legco meeting, the funding request was put to a vote, with the result being 39 in favor and 24 against.

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TL/JC/CG