Legislative Council President Andrew Leung has refused to accept a petition presented by 24 pro-democracy lawmakers asking the Chinese government to allow Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo to leave the country.

During the LegCo meeting on Wednesday – the last meeting before the council adjourns for the summer – the pro-democracy camp asked to debate the issue seven times, but were rebuffed by Leung.

Liu’s supporters and members of the international community have called for him to be allowed to leave China for treatment since he was revealed to be suffering from late-stage cancer at the end of June. But Beijing has refused, saying he is receiving the best possible care within the country.

His hospital has been releasing news of Liu’s worsening condition. It said Wednesday that he suffered respiratory failure, but his family declined to have him put on artificial ventilation.

Lawmaker Ted Hui of the Democratic Party submitted a petition at the beginning of the meeting asking the central government to allow Liu, his wife and his family to travel.

“As Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s illness has reached a critical point, we ask the central government to arrange for Liu’s wife and his family to accompany him abroad for treatment, in the spirit of humanitarianism.”

The request to debate Liu’s case was repeated six times, worded in different ways, by other pro-democracy lawmakers including Claudia Mo and Leung Kwok-hung. But they were all turned down by the president. Lawmakers also mentioned international responses to Liu’s condition, and asked the central government to respond to them.

Leung reasoned that the matter did not meet the requirement of having “urgent public importance” according to 16.2 of the Rules of Procedure. He later told other lawmakers that the wording of their petitions was not neutral. He also declined to explain his rulings during the meeting.

“I already made a ruling prohibiting motions related to the matter of Mr. Liu Xiaobo… the LegCo is not the only place to discuss the case of Liu Xiaobo – there are other ways for lawmakers to express their views,” Leung said.

“I know you are passing the baton [to raise the motion], but I’ve already made a ruling across the board – I will not accept any motions to adjourn and debate matters regarding Mr. Liu Xiaobo at this stage.”

He warned lawmakers not to abuse the rules of procedure.

See also: China will deal with ailing dissident Liu Xiaobo in a legal, compassionate way, Carrie Lam says

In response to Leung’s ruling, Hui asked: “Can you elaborate, when a person’s life is at its end, and we do not have any other meetings where we can discuss the matter, why is there no urgency?”

‘Abuse of rules’

Speaking to reporters outside the LegCo chamber, Hui condemned Leung’s decision, and claimed the president was the one who abused the rules of procedure. “I want everyone to look – is he enforcing the rules of procedure, or adhering to the demands of [the China Liaison Office in] Sai Wan, and to Beijing?”

“I want to ask Andrew Leung: Where is your conscience?” he said. “Why can’t you use your conscience to help Liu Xiaobo, to help the legislative council and Hong Kong people to say a just word for him?”

Photo: Facebook/Ted Hui.

James To said Leung’s ban on debating anything containing the words “Liu Xiaobo” was frightening.

“This is the Communist influence transforming Hong Kong to the point that [the legislature] is no different to the National People’s Congress.”

Meanwhile, a sit-in for Liu in front of the China Liaison Office continued into its fourth day.

The US government also expressed concern Wednesday about Liu’s status, and called on Beijing to release Liu and his wife.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.