A Legislative Council meeting to debate the government’s budget was terminated prematurely on Thursday as not enough lawmakers were in attendance. However, it may not have slowed down the progress of the debate as the Council’s president has set a deadline.
Only 34 lawmakers were present in the chamber, one short of the required 35. It was adjourned as lawmaker Ray Chan Chi-chuen, one of the three legislators who were staging a filibuster, called for a seventh quorum count at around noon.
When the meeting was terminated, only three pan-democrats were present in the chamber, including the Labour Party’s Cyd Ho Sau-lan, the Civic Party’s Alan Leong Kah-kit and the Democratic Party’s Sin Chung-kai.
Earlier, the LegCo president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing slashed the number of budget amendments from 2,168 to just 407, and planned to hold a vote on the budget on May 11, to cut short the filibuster. The headcount delay tactic, similar to the one used during the copyright bill debate, was designed to stall the meeting after amendments were cut.
Pro-Beijing camp lawmakers blamed the pan-democrats for deliberately not showing up.
Business and Professionals Alliance’s Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who was acting as LegCo president, said that the incident was regrettable, as some pan-democrats who proposed motions were not present the whole time.
“I saw a number of pan-democrats walking around outside the chamber, but they were not willing to go inside. Attending meetings is the responsibility of all lawmakers, not only the pro-Beijing camp’s,” Leung said.
He said the adjournment wasted ten hours of meeting time.
Just seconds before the meeting was terminated, two pan-democratic lawmakers were outside the chamber, namely the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood’s Frederick Fung Kin-kee and the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre’s Leung Yiu-chung.
Both denied they had deliberately stayed outside the chamber, as both claimed they were conducting an interview with the press and did not notice the time.
Fung said he attempted to walk into the chamber but was stopped by security guards as it was already a few seconds after the meeting was terminated. Leung apologised for the incident.
No fighting will
League of Social Democrats lawmaker “Long hair” Leung Kwok-hung, one of those who waged the filibuster, said the adjournment was “expected”.
“[Jasper Tsang] has decided the debate will end on May 11, the pro-Beijing camp has no need to be afraid of adjournments,” Leung said. “Their will for fighting [in the chamber] has decreased.”
He added that since there were 43 lawmakers from the pro-Beijing camp, should 35 of them be present in the chamber, the pan-democrats would not be able to call for a headcount.
Financial Secretary John Tsang said he believed the public would be disappointed. He urged lawmakers to be practical and pass the budget as soon as possible, as the economic environment this year will be difficult.