Chief Executive Carrie Lam says it is meaningless to submit government bills to the Legislative Council if filibustering continues.

The democrats have said it is rare for the government not to submit any bills for several weeks, despite the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement motion being passed. A stamp duty amendment bill to control the property market was scrapped to speed up the passing of the non-binding motion, but it has yet to return to the legislative agenda.

But Lam said filibustering was taking place against relatively uncontroversial subsidiary items at the legislature. The pro-democracy camp has been prolonging bill debates in order to prevent the pro-Beijing camp from beginning a debate on changing the LegCo’s rules. Their proposals may put an end to many kinds of filibustering, harming the influence of the opposition camp.

carrie lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

“These subsidiary legislation normally do not require a long time to debate… but now it takes a long time. An obvious example is the amendments to the Energy Efficiency (Labelling of Products) Ordinance, where lawmakers spent more than ten hours on it,” she said ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.

“There are still over ten bills of a similar nature queued up which lawmakers can debate. If lawmakers can clear the subsidiary legislation in a short time, then we have room to submit agenda items – otherwise, it’s meaningless.”

Lam said it was “understandable” that the pro-Beijing camp believed the legislature’s rules no longer satisfy public needs and have to be changed.

“I respect the Legislative Council’s constitutional function in that it checks and monitors the administration’s work, but society’s expectation is that it can work things out, and it can pass government bills or suggestions by the Finance Committee in an appropriate length of time,” she said.

She urged the pro-Beijing and the pro-democracy camp to understand each other and form new, effective rules in the negotiation platform they have formed.

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James To. File photo: In-Media.

But veteran Democratic Party lawmaker James To said Lam only wanted the LegCo to become a “rubber stamp” where “every item could be passed within 15 minutes.”

“That’s why she use every single means to work with the pro-Beijing camp to castrate the rights of lawmakers,” he said.

To said that even the pro-Beijing camp spoke actively during the debate on the Energy Efficiency (Labelling of Products) Ordinance: “Regardless of their motive, they also treasure their rights as lawmakers… and it was eventually passed.”

Meanwhile, Lam also said she will attend extra 30-minute Q&A sessions before Legislative Council general meetings once each month – starting next year – in addition to the existing four 90-minute sessions each year.

“From 2018, I may appear at the Legislative Council general meeting twice in a month to answer questions from lawmakers,” she said.

For the 30-minute sessions, she will not make a speech before taking questions, in order to save time.

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.