The Legislative Council meeting on the controversial Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 on Thursday was unexpectedly adjourned due to lack of quorum in the chamber.

Deliberations on the bill began in December last year. Dubbed the “Internet Article 23” by campaigners—a reference to Hong Kong’s ill-fated security law—the bill has faced major opposition from local netizens who fear it may curb internet freedoms.

Copyright bill meeting adjourned
Copyright bill meeting adjourned. Photo: HKFP.

In an attempt to stall the debate, pan-democrat lawmakers requested the quorum bell, which triggers a headcount, 15 times.

At the last attempt at around 2:30pm, an insufficient number of lawmakers made it back to the chamber after the bell had rung for 15 minutes.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung condemned pan-democrat lawmakers for not being present in the chamber during the bell, including Gary Fan Kwok-wai, who had made the request.

“It is a lawmaker’s responsibility to attend meetings,” Tam said. “It is unreasonable to intentionally cause an adjournment of the meeting.”

Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said that lawmakers wasted 60 hours over the course of the meetings.

Copyright bill meeting adjourned
Copyright bill meeting adjourned. Photo: HKFP.

Earlier in the morning, an adjournment of debate motion put forward by Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan was passed by geographical constituency representatives but voted down by those from function constituencies.

Some pro-Beijing lawmakers, namely James Tien Pei-chun of the Liberal Party and Paul Tse Wai-chun, supported the motion.

League of Social Democrats lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, one of the lawmakers who waged the filibuster, said he was surprised by the adjournment.

“I do not understand what are they condemning, it’s the responsibility of lawmakers to attend meetings. If they can’t do that themselves, who can they blame?” Leung said.

People Power’s Ray Chan Chi-chuen said that if more than 35 of some 40 pro-Beijing camp lawmakers were in the chamber, adjournment would not have happened.

“Maybe they were shy to vote yes on the adjournment of debate motion earlier, so they adjourned the meeting by walking out,” Chan said. He urged the government to withdraw the bill.

A banner at a rally against the controversial copyright bill.
A banner at a rally against the controversial copyright bill. Photo: HKFP.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung expressed “regret” over the setback.

He said that pro-Beijing lawmakers had been “very responsible” in staying in the chamber and that pan-democrat lawmakers should come back to the chamber for the meeting.

“How many times can we tolerate these meetings being abruptly terminated because of insufficient quorum?” he asked. “Almost all these calls for quorum are deliberate attempts to prematurely terminate the session in LegCo. This is not in the best interest of Hong Kong.”

So said that he knew lack of quorum may happen in the afternoon, as many lawmakers need to attend meetings for other committees. “The normal operation of a chamber requires cooperation between lawmakers,” he said.

So refused to comment on future developments at LegCo, where the Chief Executive’s policy address will be presented next week and the Motion of Thanks will be debated afterwards.

On December 9, the meeting on the copyright bill was terminated due to the same tactic.

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.