Business Hong Kong Politics & Protest

Commerce chief refuses to compromise, issues ultimatum for passing copyright bill

Pan-democratic lawmakers continued filibustering after Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung issued an ultimatum to pass the copyright amendment bill on Thursday morning.

Some pro-establishment and pan-democratic lawmakers criticised So’s refusal to compromise on certain revisions of the bill.

gregory so kam leung copyright bill

Gregory So Kam-leung speaking to the press before the LegCo meeting on Thursday. Photo: RTHK screen cap.

Last Thursday, So had said that if the copyright amendment bill does not pass this week, it will be withdrawn.

“Today is the last chance to consider this bill. Because if there is no substantial progress, tomorrow I will propose the adjournment of the meeting, ending the discussion [of the bill] in this government and LegCo,” So said before Thursday’s LegCo session.

He urged pan-democratic lawmakers to stop filibustering to enable discussion of the bill.

However, after the meeting started, two pan-democratic lawmakers, Civic Party’s Kwok Ka-ki and People Power’s Albert Chan Wai-yip, requested the quorum bell – which triggers a headcount – within half an hour of each other.

kwok ka-ki copyright bill

Kwok Ka-ki. Photo: RTHK screen cap.

Kwok accused So of failing to take advantage of the four-party meeting to reach a compromise.

The four-party meeting between copyright owners, internet users, officials and lawmakers in February resulted in a deadlock, with the copyright owners refusing to accept revisions such as contract override and “limited fair use”.

“When copyright owners refused to discuss and to accept revisions including the contract override, [So] stopped the discussions altogether,” said Kwok.

Dubbed “Internet Article 23” by campaigners – a reference to Hong Kong’s ill-fated security law – the copyright amendment bill has faced major opposition from local netizens who fear it may curb internet freedoms.

Compromises out, adjournment in

The Progressive Lawyers Group (PLG) said on Wednesday that they would support the “limited fair use” amendment put forward by lawmakers Dennis Kwok, Charles Mok and Kenneth Leung on February 29, in the hope of reaching a compromise.

“To avoid further adding to unnecessary conflicts within society, the PLG calls upon all parties to engage in rational discussion and accept the “Limited Fair Use” proposal,” Progressive Lawyers Group said in a statement.

So responded by saying that this suggestion is “absurd,” as copyright owners had rejected it before.

felix chung kwok pan copyright bill

Felix Chung Kwok-pan. Photo: Apple Daily.

However, pro-establishment Liberal Party lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan said that the “limited fair use” proposal is acceptable, and questioned why So did not restart the discussions.

Chung added that the pro-establishment camp has stopped arranging rosters for its lawmakers to sit in the chamber as there is a high chance that the meeting would be adjourned. “There is no point to keep sitting there.”

‘Netizens are citizens’

“When the use of internet is so common, netizens are in fact citizens. When citizens have concerns, we as legislators defend their rights to voice these concerns. This is in fact part of our responsibility,” said newly-elected pan-democratic lawmaker Alvin Yeung.

“Our laws have to transcend our times in order to provide the best environment, allowing our future citizens a broader space to survive on the internet,” he added.

Commerce chief refuses to compromise, issues ultimatum for passing copyright bill