The Legislative Council’s Finance Committee has passed controversial changes to its meeting rules – and to those of the Establishment Subcommittee and the Public Works Subcommittee – in order to curb the use of filibustering.

The pro-Beijing camp have often complained that filibustering tactics caused delays in approving funding for government projects. But democrats have criticised Chan Kin-por, chair of the Finance Committee, for abusing his powers by cutting short debates on controversial items.

The pro-democracy camp has always been a minority at the committees, thus they lacked power to stop the changes. But the proposals were delayed for several months as lawmakers had to first pass a set of protocols to change the rules.

Chan Kin-por. File Photo: In-Media.

Chan said he believed the changes would increase the efficiency of meetings.

Pro-Beijing camp convener Martin Liao proposed stripping lawmakers of the power to ask for the adjournment of a meeting without prior notice.

Liao also proposed that – when discussing an adjournment motion of an agenda item – lawmakers’ speaking time should be cut short to three minutes, or any amount of time decided by the committee chairs.

Previously, lawmakers would often submit hundreds of motions without prior notice in order to postpone debates.

Liao proposed that lawmakers could only raise one motion for an agenda item, and the motions had to be in written form and presented by a time specified by the chair. No debate will be allowed over whether to handle the motions, meaning they will go straight to a vote.

Martin Liao. Photo: In-Media.

The changes came after the pro-Beijing camp successfully changed the meeting rules of the LegCo general meetings at the end of last year to curb filibustering.

‘A terrible attitude’

Veteran pro-democracy lawmaker James To said that the curbing of filibustering went against the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

He cited former LegCo president Jasper Tsang as saying that, under the principle, the opposition should have the power to wage filibuster.

“Jasper Tsang has mentioned that, between 2012 and 2016, 90 per cent of the items proposed by the Finance Committee were passed. What more do you want?” he said. “Now you are not only demanding the items must be passed, but they must be passed faster – this is a terrible attitude.”

James To. File Photo: In-Media.

But Liao hit out at democrats, saying they abused their powers and ignored the cost of delays caused by their actions.

“In fact, even if the chairs run the meeting in a fair and orderly manner, the opposition lawmakers may not agree with the rulings chairs made when performing their duties,” he said.

“The chair of the Finance Committee has been taking a tolerant attitude towards the unreasonable demands of the opposition. Some even say he was too tolerant. There is no need for debate as to whether my suggestions are fair.”

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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.