The president of the Legislative Council (LegCo) has appointed pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kin-por as presiding member of the House Committee, replacing embattled democrat Dennis Kwok.
Andrew Leung announced on Friday that he would invoke the Rules of Procedure section 92 to deal with the impasse at the committee, which has been paralysed for months over its inability to elect a new chairperson and deputy chairperson.
The deadlock has led to a backlog of business, prompting chair of the last House Committee session Starry Lee – head of the pro-Beijing DAB party – to take control following outside legal advice.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok, who has presided over meetings since last October, has provoked the ire of the pro-establishment camp and Beijing’s representative offices in Hong Kong, who accused democrats of filibustering to deliberately delay legislative proceedings.
Chaotic scenes broke out last Friday when Lee tried to take charge of a meeting as opposing lawmakers wrestled with one another.
The government said it has consulted Lee on prioritisation of certain bills, including the controversial proposed national anthem law, which seeks to penalise deliberate alterations to March of the Volunteers.
‘Most effective solution’
Leung said replacing Kwok with Chan would be the “most effective solution” to the gridlock, citing advice from British barrister Lord David Pannick QC and local barrister Anthony Chan, based on experiences of overseas legislatures.
“When presiding [over] the election, Mr Chan shall proceed straight to balloting, and shall not hear points of order or entertain any motion,” he added.
“Before deciding to invoke [Rules of Procedure section 92], I’ve been hoping that the [House Committee] could resolve by itself. Regrettably, the [House Committee] held on last Friday presided by Honourable Dennis Kwok failed to elect the chairman.”
Leung said the decision was made after a members’ meeting in the morning to resolve the impasse, which democrats did not attend.
The election of the House Committee chair will be held on Monday at 11am, he added.
Martin Liao, convenor of the pro-establishment camp, told reporters they respected and supported Leung’s decision. He said it was “carefully considered” and necessary due to “unprecedented operational challenges” faced by LegCo.
“The Legislative Council president is the ultimate person in charge of council matters, and the ultimate adjudicator in explaining and implementing the Rules of Procedure.”
Liao added that Chan, as the Finance Committee chair, has experience with handling sizeable meetings and “difficult questions,” thus he was the appropriate person to appoint.