The lawmaker who chaired last Friday’s Finance Committee meeting at the legislature, which controversially passed the additional funding for the Express Rail Link, has said he handled it “very well.”

Additional funds totalling HK$19.6 billion for the project were approved in a sudden vote by the raising of hands, despite fierce protests and filibustering from pan-democratic lawmakers. About 20 pan-democratic lawmakers were ordered to leave the meeting room by acting chairman of the committee Chan Kam-lam as they attempted to occupy Chan’s table to suspend the meeting.

“I think my handling on that day was done very well – since the pan-democratic lawmakers were standing there, and they did not storm the chairman’s table, the operations were run smoothly,” Chan said on a Commercial Radio programme on Monday.

A sudden vote was called. Photo: Apple Daily.

Raised hands

Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun told Apple Daily he intended to cast an abstain vote, so he never raised his hand, as he did not hear Chan asking those who intended to abstain to raise their hands.

Chan said on the programme that there was no need to ask lawmakers to raise their hands for an abstention vote: “unless it’s a recorded vote, we would only ask those in support to raise their hands, and those who in opposition to raise their hands – we would not talk [about] abstention.”

During the vote, 13 lawmakers kept their hands raised for both questions, according to Ming Pao.

“Let me tell you, these calculations are not accurate, you should ask the concerned lawmaker, did they [want to] support or oppose – only then you can have the answer. You cannot [base things on] a photo shot at that moment to say they were casting opposition votes,” Chan said in response.

Chan said that he asked the relevant lawmakers after the vote, and they expressed they were raising their hands in support of the funding.

Chan Kam-lam. Photo: LegCo screenshot.

‘Silly’ suggestion

On Sunday, LegCo president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said at a public event he supported Chan’s counting method, which was based on Chan’s perception that there were more hands raised in support than in opposition.

“It is in accordance with the rules of procedure to [count] based on chairman’s perception,” Tsang said.

Speaking on a DBC radio programme, Finance Committee chairman Chan Kin-por – who did not chair the meetings on the project due to potential conflicts of interest – rejected pan-democratic lawmakers’ demand to overturn the vote, saying the suggestion was “silly”.

Pan-democratic lawmakers Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Ray Chan Chi-chuen have said that there may be grounds to apply for a judicial review to overturn the vote, that Chan Kam-lam’s judgment was problematic, and that he was acting against the rules of procedure to block lawmakers from asking questions.

However, the Court of Appeal previously refused an application for judicial review filed by lawmaker Raymond Wong Yuk-man, regarding Ng Leung-sing’s handling of a LegCo meeting in June 2014. The court said it would not interfere with Legco procedures because of the principle of the separation of powers.

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Kris Cheng

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.