A veteran pro-Beijing former lawmaker has said that proposed changes to the Legislative Council’s rules will break the balance between the two camps.

The debate on the changes to the council’s Rules of Procedure was first proposed by the pro-Beijing camp to curb filibustering by democrats. The changes may give the president power to reconvene a meeting at short notice should it be prematurely adjourned, to ban and combine lawmakers’ amendments, and to stop lawmakers from raising adjournment motions.

Miriam Lau, a former chair of the council’s House Committee, which decides the council’s agenda, said the current rules avoid giving too much power to the president, and lawmakers must hold a debate before giving up such powers.

Miriam Lau Ray Chan
Miriam Lau and Ray Chan. Photo: Screenshot.

Liberal Party member Lau said after an RTHK City Forum programme that, as the pro-Beijing camp’s amendments will give such powers to the president, the president must explain his reasons well when exercising his power – otherwise it would be an abuse of power.

But Lau, who did not agree with democrats’ filibustering, said the proposed amendments target common methods of filibustering in the past six years, and the democrats may come up with new tactics to stall meetings.

The pro-democracy camp does not have enough votes to block such amendments after six of its democratically-elected lawmakers were disqualified by a court following government legal action.

LegCo President Andrew Leung has set a deadline for the debate on rule changes to be completed before Christmas holidays.

Investigative power to be curbed

A proposed change from the pro-Beijing camp – unrelated to filibustering – was to raise the number of lawmakers needed to request forming investigative committees from 20 to 35, effectively banning any request from the pro-democracy camp.

andrew leung
Andrew Leung. File Photo: Legislative Council.

Lau said if the minimum requirement was raised to 35, there would be a greater consensus before forming a committee: “The effect will be better.”

But pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan said on the programme that when committees are formed, the pro-Beijing camp would typically join in to obtain the majority and the chair position.

He said the Finance Committee only requires the chair and eight lawmakers to convene a meeting: “Why don’t they increase [the minimum] then?”

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.