Legislative Council President Andrew Leung has said that amendments to the legislature’s rules raised by the pro-Beijing and the pro-democracy camps will be handled together when considered at a general meeting.
The two camps have been in a tit-for-tat war proposing changes to the rules to their benefit. Initially, the pro-Beijing camp raised the amendments to the relevant legislative committee to curb the use of filibustering, but the pro-democracy camp jumped the queue by directly sending their own amendments to the general meeting.
After Leung decided that all amendments must go through an existing three-step procedure, the next battle was over whose amendments would be handled first at the general meeting. Should the pro-democracy camp’s changes be considered first, their proposals may block changes put forward by the pro-Beijing camp.
As six lawmakers have been disqualified by a court, the pro-democracy camp does not have enough votes to block any changes to the rules, if the plans reach the voting stage. The democrats have said they wish to delay the rule changes until after the by-elections in March, so that they may regain their veto power.
The two sides have discussed their amendments at the Committee on Rules of Procedure, without reaching any consensus but fixing a typo. The amendments are set to be sent to the House Committee for review on Friday.
Leung said lawmakers have to give him 12 days of notice after the House Committee meeting for the proposed rule changes. He said the earliest meeting to handle the changes may be on December 6, and the debate on the changes raised by both camps will be combined, instead of being handled separately.
“According to the usual practice, the changes will be handled altogether. As they are both changing the Rules of Procedure, the debates can be combined,” he said.
Leung said he did not speak with the government over the matter.
Pro-democracy Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said the combined debate was “completely unreasonable.”
He said that, since there were over 50 amendments raised, lawmakers would hardly be able to have a meaningful discussion in the 15 minutes time slot allowed for each legislator.
“There is simply not enough time,” he said during a D100 online radio programme on Monday night.
Yeung said the democrats have tried hard to prevent the rules from being changed: “But the path is getting narrower… I would say we have tried, but it is very difficult.”
“It’s turning into the National People’s Congress,” he said.
Rail debate on track
On Wednesday, the legislature will resume the debate on the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement. Leung said officials will make their responses to lawmakers and then it will proceed to a vote.
Leung said lawmaker Eddie Chu’s request to ask all media and public to leave the chamber – as a means to stall the debate – was specifically raised during a meeting two weeks ago, so it will not be dealt with any further.
But he would not rule out lawmakers raising the controversial request again to stall the meeting: “But I think media have raised their strong opinions,” he added.