Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said she respected Legislative Council President Andrew Leung’s arrangements for the debate on changing council rules in order to curb filibusters.

Leung decided on Monday that all proposals from both camps will be discussed in one combined debate, in which each lawmaker can only speak for 15 minutes on 54 amendments – working out to 20 seconds for each amendment. Leung also set a deadline for the debate to conclude before Christmas holidays.

“I think this is well-balanced. He adopted a relaxed approach to accept amendments from the pro-democracy camp as well,” Lam said ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday. “But as all the amendments were raised in accordance with Article 75 of the Basic Law on rules of procedure, a combined debate is reasonable.”

Carrie Lam and Andrew Leung. /LegCo.

Lam also said it was “understandable” that Leung hoped to complete the debate on rule changes as soon as possible and move on to other items.

If the pro-Beijing camp’s changes are passed, the pro-democracy camp will lose much of its power to wage filibusters. The camp does not have enough votes to block the changes if they reach the voting stage, since six democratically-elected lawmakers were disqualified by the court.

Lam said the legislature held eight meetings since October but it was only able to pass the motion of thanks for her policy address and the non-binding motion on the joint checkpoint arrangement. She added that it spent a lot of time on items such as subsidiary legislation or the introduction of bills for second reading.

“Maybe this phenomenon is very unusual. We hope that things in the Legislative Council will be brought back to normal as soon as possible,” she said.

By-elections unchanged

Meanwhile, Lam said the date for the Legislative Council by-elections on March 11 next year will not be changed.

The pro-Beijing camp has criticised the date, as it clashes with the annual meetings of the top Chinese legislature and consultative body in Beijing. Hundreds in the camp would be away from Hong Kong, potentially harming campaigning efforts.

Starry Lee. File photo: In-Media.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee said the Electoral Affairs Commission, an independent body which decided the date, “did not consider the country, making people in the central government or up [north] unhappy.”

But Lam said the date has been issued in the official gazette and the nomination period will begin soon. “There is no room for changes…We respect the decision made independently by the Electoral Affairs Commission.”

The by-elections will fill the seats of four out of six disqualified lawmakers.

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.