The pro-Beijing camp has made a surprise countermove to cut short filibustering tactics by democrats at a Legislative Council meeting.
The democrats have been making long speeches to stall meetings, in order to delay progress and prevent the legislature from entering a debate on changing its rules. During debates, they have often raised adjournment motions, which are followed by coordinated objections by fellow pro-democracy lawmakers – all in an effort to prolong the process.
But on Thursday, pro-Beijing lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin raised the same adjournment motion – the first time ever in his ten-year tenure – in order to stop the opposition’s filibuster.
The LegCo was debating 13 subsidiary items of legislation, none of which were controversial. If Wong’s motion is passed – which may occur with the help of the pro-Beijing camp – the debates on the items will stop, and the pro-democracy will lose the opportunity to filibuster.
Wong, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said: “Recently, the filibuster at LegCo is getting more and more severe, it’s almost insane.”
For weeks, the pro-Beijing camp and democrats have been locked in a tit-for-tat war proposing changes to the legislature’s rules to their benefit. The changes are set to be debated at the LegCo meeting next Wednesday, and could be passed within that week.
Since six democratically-elected lawmakers were disqualified by a court, the pro-democracy camp no longer has enough votes to block any proposals if they reach the voting stage. The changes may prevent democrats from forming select committees and using filibustering tactics.
Turning the tables
Wong’s party colleague Alice Mak said they “learned from the pro-democracy camp… to use their own trick against them.” As Wong raised the motion, the democrats cannot raise the motion again, according to the rules.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan said Wong was “blatantly stripping the right of lawmakers” to speak: “This is an abnormal period before the by-elections – they have the control, they can do whatever they like.”
Chan accused the LegCo President Andrew Leung of colluding with the pro-Beijing camp, since Leung was able to distribute a printed version of his response to Wong’s motion right away.
“He must have written it or decided on it beforehand, so that it can be printed out and distributed right after he spoke on it, otherwise how could it be so effective? The referee and [the pro-Beijing] team have colluded with each other to make this happen,” he claimed.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To said Wong’s move turned the LegCo into the National People’s Congress, where no true debate was allowed.