Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu said the pro-democracy camp must use all means necessary to resist a situation where freedom is being stripped away.
On Thursday, in a last-ditch attempt to stall the debate on the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement, Chu cited the Rules of Procedure 88 (1) to demand an unprecedented debate to request the media and public to leave the Legislative Council chamber. The Pro-Beijing camp criticised his move as “hideous.”
Both the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong News Executives’ Association said they were disappointed by Chu’s move, and that LegCo meetings should be held in public. Chu had said it would be his first and the last time to use the rule, as he wished to abolish it for harming press freedom.
Although it has never been used in Hong Kong, British MPs have used a similar rule to stall meetings as a kind of filibustering.
Following the chaotic premature adjournment of the meeting on Thursday, partly caused by his move, Chu said he understood the concerns from the two associations.
“I hope they can consider, from a wider perspective, the stripping of freedom from the legislature and from the public. They are equally worthy of concern, or more concern should be raised about them,” Chu said on a RTHK radio programme on Friday.
Pro-democracy groups and scholars have criticised what they call a ceding of territory to China and potential violations of the Basic Law over the Express Rail Link border procedures. Part of the station in West Kowloon – set to open next year – will be considered part of the mainland under the agreement.
“The Beijing government is ignoring its own basic principles on Hong Kong and the Basic Law for the joint checkpoint in West Kowloon,” Chu said. “This will create an unrecoverable breach of Hong Kong people’s basic rights. I hope the press associations will also be concerned about this.”
“We are like a bank which someone is robbing with a machine gun, we must resist.”
Chu said he was unhappy when LegCo President Andrew Leung decided to cut short the debate. Leung decided against continuing the debate in another room, after another lawmaker refused to leave the chamber after being told to leave.
“This is a suicidal act – it affects the relationship between different factions in LegCo, and the public perception of the LegCo,” Chu said. “But as the minority in the legislature, facing the huge destruction to the system, we cannot stand aside.”
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Ben Chan said democrats used excuses every time when they waged filibusters: “But there is a bottom line… As it became a tool for filibuster, they have lost their rational minds.”
But Chu said the usage of rule 88(1) was purely strategic.
The pro-Beijing camp had proposed amending the rule and give the power to eject the media and the public to the LegCo president. Chu said it showed that the pro-Beijing camp did not think the rule’s power itself is a problem.
On the contrary, Chu said, many pro-Beijing camp lawmakers never asked the meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference to protect the public’s right to know.
The Journalist Association noted that Chu did not support the motion: “Raising the motion was only a means to fight for a chance to negotiate. But the Association stresses the importance of press freedom and the public’s right to know, they should not become political bargaining chip.”
The News Executives’ Association used stronger words, saying that the motion “seriously harmed Hong Kong’s core values.”
“We can hardly imagine the motion was raised by an elected lawmaker… We condemn any act destroying press freedom,” it said.