Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp struggled to extend the debate over changes to the legislature’s rules on Thursday. The meeting was suspended a few times in the last hour of the meeting after further protests by democrats.
Following an earlier adjournment at around noon, LegCo President Andrew Leung had resumed the meeting without conceding to any of the camp’s suggestions to allow more time.
Leung said he asked the democrats and the pro-Beijing camp to discuss the arrangement for the meeting during the break, and he would follow any agreement reached. But nothing came of the three-hour negotiations.
The debate on the changes to the council’s Rules of Procedure was first proposed by the pro-Beijing camp to curb filibustering by democrats, and potentially prevent them from forming certain investigative committees. The pro-democracy camp does not have enough votes to block such amendments after six of its democratically-elected lawmakers were disqualified by a court following government legal action.
The pro-democracy camp had requested that their amendments – 11 out of the 49 proposals – be debated separately, with 15 minute time slots. They asked that each lawmaker be given 45 minutes to debate the pro-Beijing camp’s amendments.
“This is our bottom line, the least acceptable arrangement,” said Charles Mok, pro-democracy camp convener.
But Martin Liao, the convener of the pro-Beijing camp, said democrats would get 210 minutes of speaking time, not including speaking time by raising other motions: “This is completely unacceptable.”
Leung resorted to the original ruling, which allowed 15 minutes of allotted speaking time for each lawmaker to debate all 49 amendments.
As pro-Beijing lawmaker Paul Tse resumed speaking, the democrats regularly stopped him by raising procedural questions, such as citing the rule 91 of the LegCo’s rule book to suspend the implementation of certain rules, so that lawmakers can speak more. Leung rejected all requests.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan also attempted to walk out of his seat towards the president but was stopped.
Leung had suggested on Wednesday that three extra meetings could be held next week to handle the changes before the Christmas break.
After Tse finished speaking, pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung proposed an adjournment motion in an effort to lengthen the debate.
He urged the pro-Beijing camp to retract the changes: “To you, it is a rare [chance] to change the rules, but you are also on the edge of a cliff.”
“You may not be used to democrats offering an olive branch… If our pro-establishment camp colleagues choose to carry on, in the future we democrats will also have the determination to do anything [to stop it].”
“This war will not be a matter of a week or two weeks, it will continue after Christmas and the New Year. I am worried it may not even be months but years,” he said, as he urged the pro-Beijing camp to retract the changes. “We will then retract our own motions as well, so that Hong Kong people can receive the best Christmas present.”