A recent consultation document from the legislature has sparked backlash from pan-democrats, who fear that the rules of procedure will be amended to unfairly target them.
The Committee on Rules of Procedure sent a consultation document to all lawmakers on Monday, asking if “there is a need to introduce new sanctions against [legislators’] misconduct.” It also proposed a framework of sanctions which included prohibiting lawmakers from attending future meetings, and a financial penalty.
Twenty four pro-democracy lawmakers signed a statement on Tuesday opposing harsher penalties. They said the proposal was unnecessary and will give disproportionate power to the legislature’s president.
Lawmaker Claudia Mo, who is slated to take over as convener of the pro-democracy camp in October, told HKFP that the document was “unacceptable” and an attempt to suppress lawmakers who protest in Council chambers.
“We strongly condemn this supposed proposal,” Mo said. “Obviously [pro-establishment lawmakers] are trying to take advantage of their sheer majority in numbers at the moment to further bring the Legislative Council down on its knees… We are against it 101 per cent.”
Last December, the pro-Beijing camp successfully pushed through a series of amendments to the rules of procedure designed to curb filibustering. The amendments also granted more powers to the legislature’s president, a role currently held by pro-establishment lawmaker Andrew Leung. In a political system heavily stacked against them, pan-democrats relied on filibustering as a tactic to block or delay the passing of bills they oppose.
In June, lawmaker Paul Tse, who heads the legislature’s Committee on Rules of Procedure, floated the idea of introducing more amendments. Tse suggested that lawmakers who had been kicked out of the chamber multiple times should be banned from joining meetings for a year.
The latest 28-page document proposed sanctions against lawmakers who “behaved in a grossly disorderly manner… and [were] ordered to withdraw immediately.” Under the proposal, the legislature’s president could ban the lawmaker from attending meetings for a period of time, withhold the lawmaker’s wages during that time, or impose a fine.
The document invited lawmakers to give their views before October 2.
Mo said it was “dubious” for the consultation document to be issued while the legislature was in recess: “Why would they suddenly think up such a package to start with? It’s all targeted at the pro-democracy camp,” she said.
“Especially with the money bit – in effect, they are going to practically disqualify, to oust a lawmaker… We will fight in every way when the Council resumes in October,” Mo added.
DAB Chairman Starry Lee said in June that her party would support stronger penalties for disruptive lawmakers. Comparing the penalties to yellow cards and red cards in football, Lee said that lawmakers’ behaviour should be regulated.
Lee said at the time that “many citizens” spoke to her in support of fining disorderly lawmakers, and she considered the idea to be worthy of study, but the pro-establishment camp had not started discussions yet.