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Thursday, December 07, 2017, 00:48
'Intense battle' predicted as LegCo camps face off over rules
By He Shusi and Luis Liu
Thursday, December 07, 2017, 00:48 By He Shusi and Luis Liu

Hong Kong residents gather in Admiralty, near the government buildings, on Dec 6, 2017 to protest against rampant filibustering in the Legislative Council and show support for efforts to amend the legislature's Rules of Procedure. (PARKER ZHENG / CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s pro-establishment lawmakers and political analysts on Wednesday said the debate on amending the Legislative Council’s Rules of Procedure will be an uphill battle.

The battle has already begun; planned deliberation on the issue was delayed to the next meeting because of lengthy speeches on whether to set aside a less important motion

They warn it may not end as scheduled before Christmas since they estimate the opposition camp is likely to seek to abort the effort by all means.

The battle has already begun; planned deliberation on the issue was delayed to the next meeting because of lengthy speeches on whether to set aside a less important motion.

Veteran political analyst Song Sio-chong predicts the “pan-democrats” intend to drag the debate on to at least next March, when a LegCo by-election will fill four seats left vacant by disqualified lawmakers.

The “pan-democrats” are likely to win back at least three seats, returning veto power to their camp.

All vacant seats had been held by opposition lawmakers who were disqualified because of violations of the Basic Law and local ordinances over oath-taking behavior.

Song – professor at the Research Center of Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law, Shenzhen University – is pessimistic over prospects for the amendments to be passed as “pan-democrats” still have enough means to filibuster. There will be a drawn-out war over the issue. 

Despite the opposition’s possible moves ahead, lawmakers who back the amendments are still determined.  

Convener of pro-establishment legislators Martin Liao Cheung-kong, who proposed the major part of the rule amendment motions, described the debate as a “battleground with smoke of gunpowder”. He said unpredictable tactics are the real threat.

However, Liao was confident his proposals would pass.  

Legislator and chairman of the Committee on Rules of Procedure Paul Tse Wai-chun condemned the opposition lawmakers’ lengthy speeches on Wednesday. He said LegCo had wasted too much time on filibustering and failed to carry out its duty to supervise the government.

Thus he thought Hong Kong residents would be happiest if some amendments could be made this time.

Legislator and chairwoman of the city’s largest party – the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong – Starry Lee Wai-king said it was hard to predict whether LegCo could pass the rule amendment proposals by Christmas as scheduled considering the opposition lawmakers’ attitude.

Even so, she had confidence in this “battle” and said the amendments were within LegCo’s power defined by the Basic Law and everything has to go according to the rules no matter what cards the “pan-democrats” had in their hands.

Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, legislator and vice-chairperson of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, agreed with Lee and said the pro-establishment members are “fully united” and determined to put LegCo back on track through the amendments. “I myself have waited for this moment for 10 years,” she said.

She also urged the “pan-democrats” to be a constructive opposition and not express their objections by paralyzing LegCo and squandering taxpayers’ money.

The 49 proposals include lowering quorum requirements for the weekly council meetings and offering more power to the LegCo president to curb abuse of procedures.

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