The Legislative Council has passed the HK$3.6 billion in education funds proposed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam after a slow debate.
Pro-democracy lawmakers previously said they were “willing to examine” the proposal at the last meeting of the Finance Committee before summer break, but refused to discuss seven other items on the Finance Committee agenda as a form of protest.
The camp’s tensions with the government and the pro-Beijing camp have escalated since last Friday’s High Court ruling to disqualify four of its lawmakers, bringing the total number of ousted legislators to six.
The funds were supposed to be debated last Friday and Saturday, but the disqualifications and the protests that followed forced the meetings to be suspended until Wednesday.
The debate on Wednesday took more than seven hours, as pro-democracy lawmakers continued to ask questions and file non-binding temporary motions asking the government to refine the proposal.
Of the 53 lawmakers present at the meeting, including the committee’s chairman Chan Kin-por, 43 voted yes, three voted no and six abstained.
As the item was passed, Claudia Mo, Ray Chan, Eddie Chu and Ted Hui walked away from their seats to protest the disqualification of lawmakers.
“Election results cannot be modified – give us back our democratically-elected lawmakers,” they chanted.
The chairman ordered them to leave, suspended the meeting and moved it to another room in order to prevent the four from joining the meeting again.
The education proposal includes an annual HK$30,000 subsidy for every student studying for an undergraduate degree in Hong Kong’s self-financed higher education institutions. The subsidy would be provided to all students who meet academic requirements without means testing.
Most members of the pro-democracy camp have previously supported the funding proposal. But they also questioned whether the HK$30,000 subsidy could also be extended to self-financed degree-takers in Hong Kong’s eight government-funded universities, such as the University of Hong Kong.
Gov’t ‘listened to education sector’
Pro-democracy education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen urged the government to review future proposals and extend benefits to all students.
“The education sector still has a lot of expectations. This is not a perfect proposal. But it should be applauded that the government respected and listened to voices from the education sector this time,” he said.
He also voiced opposition to the disqualification of lawmakers after Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law.
“This is the utmost injustice,” he said. “The government cannot think they have solved their problems by doing this.”
“It caused a lot of problems for the Legislative Council when reviewing items,” he said.
When the item was passed, there was less than an hour left of the meeting.
Lawmakers were able to pass some items still left on the agenda, including funds to rebuild and expand three hospitals.