A veteran pan-democratic lawmaker has been accused by two pro-Beijing camp lawmakers of intentionally meddling with a lift to block them from attending the copyright bill debate at the Legislative Council. The debate was abandoned due to low attendance.
It is a criminal offence to obstruct lawmakers from attending a meeting.
Pan-democratic lawmakers have been requesting a headcount every hour in an attempt to stall the debate of the controversial Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014. The meeting was adjourned at around 3:15pm, as only 33 lawmakers were in the LegCo chamber, fewer than the required 35. No pan-democratic lawmakers were present at that moment.
Chan Yuen-han, a veteran pro-Beijing lawmaker from the Federation of Trade Unions, accused a “veteran lawmaker” – whom she did not name – of preventing her from attending the meeting by pressing the 5th and 9th floor elevator buttons. The chamber is on the second floor.
“I was thinking, should I leave [the elevator]? I was not happy about that at all,” Chan said. She said the incident caused her to be one of the last people to enter the chamber.
Felix Chung Kwok-pan, chairman of the Liberal Party, also said he and party colleague Tommy Cheung Yu-yan lost around 30 seconds in the lift due to the extra floor buttons being pressed. The delay meant the chamber was unable to maintain the quorum.
“If it was just me and Tommy Cheung, it could be an accident or coincidence; but same situation happened for Chan, maybe this was intentional,” he said.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said that it was him in the lift, but denied the accusations. He claimed he was only going to the 5th floor to buy a drink and was not going to the meeting.
“I got into a lift going up to the 10th floor and saw Chan, and I pressed 5th. I figured that I had forgotten a document, so I pressed 9th to get it and left – Chan had made no reaction by then,” he said.
He added that the Liberal Party lawmakers did not complain when they also joined him a lift.
“We are all lawmakers, we have a right to go to our destinations,” To said that it was “unfair” that he was being accused, but he understood there was pressure on the pro-Beijing camp for the meeting to carry on.
LegCo President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said the incident was “serious” if the accusations were true, and that the secretariat will look into it.
Two League of Social Democrats members were fined HK$4,500 in 2013 after they attempted to terminate a LegCo meeting debating the annual budget by pressing all the buttons in an elevator. The maximum penalty is a fine of HK$10,000 and one year imprisonment.
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. They say it may not have provided enough protection for internet users who use copyrighted materials for non-profit and personal use.
The premature adjournment was the fourth abandonment in two months. The latest has cost the Council nine hours of meeting time on the bill this week, ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday next week.
After the holiday, the Council was scheduled for a Motion of Thanks on the 2016 policy address. The debate on copyright bill may only resume on February 24.
Lawmakers, the government, civil rights groups and copyright owners are currently in talks to organise a meeting to discuss whether if a compromise can be reached. However, Chan Kam-lam, a pro-Beijing lawmaker who proposed the meeting, said the premature adjournment showed that the pan-democratic camp was not sincere.
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