Pro-establishment politician Ip Kwok-him has said that amending the Legislative Council Rules of Procedure and legislating for a national security law are two separate matters.
Changes to the legislature’s rules have been proposed mostly by the pro-Beijing camp to curb filibustering by democrats. The pro-democracy camp does not have enough votes to block any modifications after six of its democratically-elected lawmakers were disqualified by a court following government legal action.
Legislative Council President Andrew Leung has suggested a Christmas deadline for the debate.
The pro-democracy camp warned at a news conference on Wednesday that, after the rules are changed, Hong Kong’s controversial national security law could be passed sooner. “This threat is imminent,” said Charles Mok, convener of the camp.
On Thursday, Ip said that amending the Rules of Procedure will not facilitate the legislation of Article 23 – the controversial national security law – as the amendment was in order to restore normality in the legislature.
Speaking on a Commercial Radio programme, the DAB Executive Councillor said that he has never seen such chaos in all his years as a lawmaker. “It’s not possible to even hold meetings – how could you call it a council? When I talk about this, I get really angry.”
“The dignity of our Legislative Council has been destroyed by those who engage in filibustering. People call it the ‘rubbish’ legislature now,” he added.
Ip said he believed that the government should not “wait for the right moment” when it comes to legislating Article 23. He said that the government can – on the one hand – focus on economic development and – on the other – build a foundation for legislation of the national security law.
Article 23 of the Basic Law was shelved in 2003 after half a million marched in protest out of fear its legislation would have a negative effect on civil liberties.
Ip, who is a National People’s Congress deputy, also said that it was inappropriate that the Legislative Council by-elections clashed with top meetings in Beijing. The independent Electoral Affairs Commission set the date as March 11 – it has been officially gazetted.
Hundreds of pro-Beijing camp members would be away from Hong Kong, potentially harming campaigning efforts.
Ip said that he hoped the government will try its best not to arrange events that clash with important occasions in the country in the future. He also said he has heard rumours that Beijing is unhappy with the clash.