A legislative council debate to discuss Hong Kong’s controversial new copyright bill has been adjourned as not enough lawmakers were present in the chamber. The meeting has therefore been delayed until next Wednesday.

The amendment bill has been dubbed “Internet Article 23” – Article 23 being Hong Kong’s ill-fated national security law. The bill is intended to extend the protection of copyright owners to the internet. Netizens, internet freedom advocacy groups and lawmakers have expressed concerns, however, that it could limit the creation and distribution of derivative works, as it did not include an open-ended exemption for “user generated content”, a “contract override” nor a “fair use” term.

A “contract override” term would override the contractual terms imposed by the copyright owners to prohibit parody. Whilst a “fair use” term is being proposed in order to protect derivative works such as those published by performers who cover songs, artists who self-publish comic remixes, internet users who live-stream game playing and song lyric rewrites.

legco empty
File photo: HKFP.

Pan-democrat lawmakers were repeatedly asking for a quorum count when they spoke during a question and answer session with the government. It came before the debate of new copyright bill had even begun.

Lawmaker Charles Mok said: “We have an opportunity to use this one week to further discuss with the pro-establishment legislators and parties, and also with the government, to urge them – for the sake of Hong Kong – to adopt and accept the three major amendments that are proposed. And they would probably bring this matter to a much better ending.”

Charles Mok
Charles Mok. File Photo: Facebook/Charles Mok

Mok also said he will discuss further action with civil groups.

Lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing said he was “disappointed about lawmakers constantly ringing the bell to ask for quorum count.”

“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung questioned why some of the pro-Beijing lawmakers were not at the chamber, as it was their responsibility.

Ray Chan Chi-chuen said that if the pro-Beijing camp had been present at the meeting, the pan-democrats would not have been able to call for quorum and thus adjourn the meeting. He added that if the meeting next week were adjourned again, lawmakers may not be able to vote on the bill even after the Chinese New Year holiday.

Internet freedom advocacy group Keyboard Frontline has cancelled the rally on Wednesday against the bill.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.