A Legislative Council meeting on Thursday was prematurely adjourned owing to a lack of quorum, as democrats continued their filibustering tactics. A minimum number of lawmakers is required to be present in the chamber and lawmakers may ask for headcounts at any time.

The pro-democracy camp has been seeking to prevent the LegCo from debating the pro-Beijing camp’s proposed changes to the meeting rules which are intended to curb filibustering.

It was the second premature adjournment since the legislative season kicked off in October. At around 9:45am, lawmaker Claudia Mo called for a headcount and – after 15 minutes – only 34 lawmakers were present, one short of the required number.

Eddie Chu. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Democratic Party lawmaker Roy Kwong was the only democrat present as he was waiting to speak over the government’s proposed resolution under the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, which suggested a four per cent increase to criminal legal aid and prosecution fees.

‘Month-long war’

Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu said the filibustering effort was a part of a month-long war to defend the LegCo’s Rules of Procedures. The two camps have been in a tit-for-tat battle proposing changes to the rules to their benefit. Since six democratically-elected lawmakers were disqualified by a court, the pro-democracy camp no longer has enough votes to block any proposals if they reach the voting stage.

“This is not only about whether the legislature will still have the power to monitor the government from doing things to harm the public, this is also about several looming evil laws – including the national anthem law, the joint checkpoint arrangement, and Article 23 [national security law] that we have been talking much about lately,” he said.

“The scheduling is very obvious – after the rules are changed, these evil laws will come one-by-one. We are fighting against these evil laws in every single meeting.”

People Power lawmaker Ray Chan blamed the premature adjournment on the pro-Beijing camp. He said that, during the first headcount at 9am, the camp returned to the chamber in less than seven minutes: “The pro-Beijing camp designed this premature adjournment.”

‘Make the legco normal again’

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee said the LegCo had entered an abnormal situation since the item in discussion was not controversial at all, but it was debated for more than seven hours.

“We hope to make the LegCo normal again, we hope the LegCo can do beneficial things, but you can see this was very abnormal. I believe their goal in continuously speaking was to stall the meeting, in order to delay the motion to change the LegCo’s Rules of Procedures.”

Starry Lee. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

She denied the pro-Beijing camp intentionally allowed the adjournment to occur, as she said the camp had tried its best to ensure the effective operation of the legislature.

She also said it was not their intention to delay a potential censure motion against pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho over his remarks on killing independence advocates “without mercy.”

Her party colleague Gary Chan said: “I believe even Junius Ho will want it to be discussed as soon as possible.”

Andrew Leung. Photo: LegCo.

LegCo President Andrew Leung said it is the responsibility of lawmakers to attend meetings and their behaviour is monitored by the public: “The time at the legislature is limited, and lots of work has to be handled.”

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.