The most important vote of the legislature’s term descended into farce on Thursday, as pro-establishment lawmakers left the chambers prior to a vote on electoral reform.

The political reform resolution was voted down by 28 legislators, with only eight legislators voting in support of the package following a mass walk-out.

legco Hong Kong Legislature and government building
Hong Kong Legislature and government building. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Legislator Jeffrey Lam of the Business and Professional Alliance explained that one of their party’s legislators, Lau Wong-fat of the Heung Yee Kuk functional constituency, was not able to make it in time for the vote due to illness.

The pro-establishment legislators organised a walk-out in order to force a 15 minute recess – a compulsory break in proceedings if fewer than half of the lawmakers are present in the chamber – which would have allowed Lau to arrive for the vote.

However, five Liberal Party legislators including James Tien, honorary chairman of the Liberal Party, and three other legislators were not informed of the decision to leave the chamber en masse and remained inside for the vote.

The eight votes in support caused the resolution to receive the necessary 35 votes to legitimise the final tally. Fewer than 35 would have voided the vote, causing legislators to begin voting procedures again.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung said “[the pro-establishment legislators] also strongly criticise the pan-democrats of stripping away Hong Kong residents’ right to vote in the 2017 Chief Executive Elections.”

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.