The pro-democracy camp has proposed 34 “constructive” amendments to the rules of the Legislative Council in an apparent attempt to block the pro-Beijing camp from changing the rules in its favour.
The sudden move came after the camp asked for 15 headcounts in the LegCo chamber to stall the meeting, in protest of the government jumping the queue to allow a debate on the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement next week.
The filibuster was part of an effort to stop the pro-Beijing camp from raising amendments to the Rules of Procedure to curb filibustering – which the pro-democracy camp does not have enough votes to reject – before the by-elections on March 11 next year.
On Wednesday evening, the pro-democracy camp unexpectedly announced their own proposed amendments. which have been submitted to the LegCo secretariat and could be debated at the LegCo meeting as soon as November 15, ahead of amendments proposed by the pro-Beijing camp.
Each amendments could take around seven hours to debate, meaning it could take months to debate all of the amendments. However, the LegCo president could reject the proposed amendments or combine the debates.
The pro-democracy camp said their amendments “were all constructive suggestions and were not intended to strip the legislature of its power.”
“We hope to make LegCo more efficient and more fit to be a legislature that Hong Kong should have in the 21st century,” said legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok.
“As lawmakers, we all have the responsibility to look into what improvements we can make. [The pro-Beijing camp] thinks filibustering is a ‘problem,’ stand up petitioning is a ‘problem,’ frankly I don’t agree. On the contrary, there is a lot of room for improvements in the rules,” Kwok added.
Kwok said on a Commercial Radio programme on Thursday that the amendments were all sound.
“I don’t see what reason the president would have to reject the amendments,” he said.
The 34 amendments included suggestions that:
- Oath-taking should be administered by the chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal;
- Wages and subsidies given to lawmakers should not be returned if their oaths are subsequently nullified;
- Sign language should be an official language and should be allowed to be used while chairing meetings;
- The LegCo president should be a Chinese citizen with no foreign right of abode in the past seven years, and should be a directly elected lawmaker;
- The president should not prematurely decide meeting dates;
- Lawmakers should be able to invite the chief executive to meetings;
- Lawmakers should be able to breastfeed during meetings;
- The chief executive should announce the policy address at the first LegCo meeting;
- LegCo meetings should carry on during the annual “Two Sessions” political meetings in Beijing;
- The number of secretaries and legal advisors should be increased.
Usually, amendments to the rules would be discussed at the Committee on Rules of Procedure before they are submitted to the House Committee and the LegCo general meeting. However, the rules do not ban the direct submission of amendments to the LegCo general meeting, although there is no precedent.
Lawmaker Gary Chan, the pro-Beijing camp’s convener, said they did not expect the move and that they have no power to stop it, but he said the democrats should have raised the amendments at the Committee on Rules of Procedure first.
LegCo President Andrew Leung did not comment on the amendments, saying that he has not had time to read them yet.