The Legislative Council meeting on the controversial copyright bill has been unexpectedly adjourned again due to low attendance. However, the impact of the adjournment is considered very small.
Lawmakers were debating whether to transfer the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 to a new “select committee” to allow time for re-negotiations, as pan-democratic lawmakers have been waging a filibuster in order to delay the bill. Should this suggestion be rejected, the council will carry on reviewing the bill as a “committee of the whole house”.
Acting LegCo president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen had arranged for the meeting to end at around 1pm, but it was adjourned 40 minutes before the scheduled time, as not enough lawmakers were in the chamber following a headcount. It was the third time a meeting was adjourned in two months.
Pro-Beijing camp lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, who is regarded as the whip of the camp, said the impact was small.
“This continuous filibuster has been terminating meetings, I believe Hong Kong people can see who is responsible,” said Ip.
Commerce minister Gregory So Kam-leung, who is responsible for the bill, said the morale of the pro-Beijing camp had improved. The camp managed a win at the second reading debate on Thursday.
Pan-democrat Ray Chan Chi-chuen, one of the lawmakers waging the filibuster, also said that it was not a big win for his camp.
However, he added that the government should compromise, as it may take 100 hours before voting on the bill, excluding time needed for headcounts.
There are only 48 hours of meetings left before the Chinese New Year break from February 3. If the filibuster on the copyright bill does not end by that date, it may delay debates on the policy address and the annual budget, thus stalling the government’s spending plans. There are also 19 more bills waiting to be debated.
On Thursday, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor denied the possibility of pulling the bill.
Albert Chan Wai-yip, another filibuster participant, said members of the pro-Beijing camp were very tired of being forced to sit for 11 hours a day in the chamber to avoid adjournments, and some were already sick. LegCo president Jasper Tsang did not attend the meeting due to illness.
He urged Lam to sit in LegCo together with the pro-Beijing camp to show her support for the bill.
Dubbed the “Internet Article 23” by campaigners—a reference to Hong Kong’s ill-fated security law—the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014 has faced major opposition from local netizens who fear it may curb internet freedoms. They say it may not have provided enough protection for internet users who use copyrighted materials for non-profit and personal use.
LegCo will resume the debate on the bill next Wednesday.