Legislative Council President Andrew Leung has decided to host four additional meetings on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and next Monday so that the changes to the legislature’s rules can be handled before Christmas holidays.
Initially, the last LegCo meeting of the month on Wednesday was the only meeting set for this week. But after receiving support from 39 pro-Beijing camp lawmakers, Leung decided to schedule additional meetings between 9am and 8pm on four days.
Leung also decided on an alternative ending time for the meeting on Monday. Lawmakers may need to stay overnight until the changes are passed.
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. 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.
‘Lazy pro-Beijing camp’
Lawmaker Eddie Chu said the decision showed that the pro-Beijing camp was “lazy,” as this was the first time in the LegCo term where an overnight meeting was held.
“They could have conducted overnight meetings on every single controversial item, but they didn’t. For them, the only item that they would agree to an overnight meeting on is changing the rules, so that we have fewer powers and they will never have to be in overnight meetings again,” he said.
Charles Mok, convener of the pro-democracy camp, said Leung’s arrangement was very rare and condemned the decision:”We are very sure that the LegCo president has a political mission to accomplish.”
Mok said even if the pro-Beijing camp hoped to change the rules before the March by-elections – after which the democrats may retake some seats and their veto power – there is still a lot of time to handle the changes: “We don’t see any real urgency.”
He said that, in the last term of LegCo, meetings were conducted until 10pm, but it was the pro-Beijing camp who voted to end meetings at 8pm, since the “unfair” election system ensured that the camp has a majority.
“They said the result is the same when the meeting is held until 10pm or 8pm – why not leave work earlier? This is their attitude towards LegCo – they can just decide on everything when they have the majority,” Mok said.
He urged the public to join the pan-dems in their protest outside the Legislative Council.
Pro-Beijing camp lawmaker Paul Tse warned at a Commercial Radio programme on Monday that the police could be called to LegCo to arrest lawmakers if they tried to block meetings from continuing.
Mok said in response: “This is turning LegCo into a place where elected lawmakers cannot even speak. If we do anything that they don’t like, then we will be sued.”
However, Chu said: “We are not afraid of threats.”
‘Return to normal state’
Starry Lee, leader of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said they supported Leung’s decision as LegCo is in an “abnormal state.”
She said the arrangement will be beneficial to society and to LegCo: “I believe the public does not want to see the legislature often plunging into chaos.”
She denied that Leung was being unfair: “I believe the president’s decision was intended to return LegCo to a normal state as soon as possible.”
Lee said the democrats often used rare tactics to filibuster, and thus more time was needed to complete the debate: “We will not underestimate the difficulties and challenges in changing the rules.”
She added that additional meetings do not only occur at the end of the LegCo term.