The pro-Beijing chair of the Legislative Council Finance Committee has suggested banning individual lawmakers from raising more than one temporary motion during each debate, in an effort to stop filibustering tactics commonly employed by the pro-democracy camp.
Chan Kin-por’s comments come after four pro-democracy legislators were ousted from their seats by the High Court last week due to the way in which they took their oaths. A total of six opposition lawmakers have been disqualified since November. Arrangements for a by-election have yet to be announced.
Some members of the pro-democracy camp have claimed that it would be impossible to have a normal relationship with the government after the disqualifications.
The legislative committee responsible for approving government funds held its final session before the summer break on Wednesday. The committee approved Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s proposal to spend an additional HK$3.6 billion each year on education half an hour before the end of the meeting, after the pro-democracy camp raised temporary motions asking the government to refine the funding proposal.
However, chairperson Chan then prohibited any lawmakers from speaking, and quickly passed motions to rebuild and expand three hospitals within the last half-hour. The committee did not have time to pass several infrastructure construction proposals.
One motion per debate
Speaking on a Thursday morning RTHK programme, Chan criticised what he called filibustering from the pro-democracy camp, and suggested amending Article 37A of the Finance Committee Procedure.
The article allows legislators to put forward temporary motions – motions that have not been submitted to the legislature for review beforehand – but does not stipulate a limit on how many can be raised. Chan suggested that legislators be limited to raising one such motion in each debate.
“I need to balance legislators’ right to speak [with] the order and efficiency of the legislature,” he said.
Chan added that he would discuss his suggestion with the pro-Beijing camp before the legislature reconvenes in October. He rejected suggestions that he is taking advantage of the ousting of six opposition lawmakers to pass the amendment, which would come into effect if over half of the legislature voted for it.
“I’m definitely not taking advantage of [the pro-democracy camp’s] predicament,” he said. “I already have enough people.”
Chan also suggested changing the rules of procedure so that lawmakers expelled due to misbehaviour would not be able to return to the meeting for an entire day.
Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting was split into four sessions. The Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung was expelled during the 9am session for standing up to protest the disqualification of his four colleagues, but returned for the 11am session.
“It should be like [meetings in the] main chamber of the Legislative Council,” said Chan. “If the president says you’ve behaved in a certain way and asks you to leave, you would not be able to return for the entire day.”
“You should not be allowed to return for the next session. If so then what’s the point? Some legislators will say ‘then kick me out, I’ll be back in a flash.’”
Pro-democracy education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, also speaking on RTHK, denied that pro-democracy legislators were filibustering during Wednesday’s debate. He said that there were genuine concerns about the details of the education funding proposal, and lawmakers did not raise “hundreds” of motions, as they have done in the past.
Chan added that there was room for cooperation between the pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camp. He cited as an example a request by the Democratic Party’s Helena Wong on Wednesday to reduce legislators’ allocated speaking time in an effort to pass the education proposal.