It seems that no outrage perpetrated on Hong Kong can be allowed to pass without assurances from Beijing’s supporters that this is all normal international practice.

Only last week, for example, we were told by one of the regime’s lapdogs that Australia, Canada and some US states had “snitch hotlines”, so complaints about the new Hong Kong one were unjustified because “everyone has one.”

Empty legco chamber lack of quorum
Rather empty. Photo: LegCo webcast screenshot.

It will be a bit of a struggle to cast a veil of normality over our incredible shrinking legislature, which with the accumulated toll of disqualifications and resignations is now down to a membership of 43 (one of whom is the chairman) out of a theoretical 70.

So let me help out here. There is a precedent, and moreover a precedent in London. Take that, Lord Patten.

The parliament in question was elected in 1640. Theoretically it ran on until 1660 but those 20 years were eventful. In 1642 the English Civil War broke out. There were then 503 members but the members who supported the king left. In 1646 some of these members were replaced by new elections, but some were not.

This left 460 members by 1648, at which point the house was purged (Pride’s Purge, named after the Colonel in charge) of members unsympathetic to the army interest, leaving 210 members. This remnant was known as “the Rump Parliament” and ran on, with a good deal of absenteeism among members who doubted the legality of Pride’s Purge, until 1653, when it was dispersed by troops on the orders of Oliver Cromwell.

In 1659, Cromwell being dead, the Rump was reassembled in the hope of designing and bestowing some legitimacy on a replacement for the Protectorate, now occupied rather incongruously by Cromwell’s son. This was not a success and the following year the parliament was unpurged, as it were, with the return of those of the missing members who had survived. It then dissolved itself.

Rather disturbingly from a local point of view, the Rump’s most conspicuous achievement was to authorise the execution of King Charles I. No doubt our local Rump will not be slow to press for prosecutions (this has already started) but we may hope things will not go as far as public decapitations.

Anyway when some apologist for the appalling tells you that worse things have happened to another legislature this is demonstrably, though not perhaps terribly relevantly, true.

The distinguishing feature of our own Rump is its dodgy relationship to the law. The law on LegCo vacancies is very simple. The Clerk to LegCo has the duty of keeping track of the membership, and when a vacancy occurs, of notifying the Electoral Affairs Commission, whose job is to organise the election of a replacement.

helena wong wu chi wai andrew wan lam cheuk ting
Democratic Party lawmakers Helena Wong, Wu Chi-wai, Andrew Wan, Lam Cheuk-ting meet the press before entering the Legislative Council chamber to submit resignation letters. File Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The only exception allowed to this procedure is if the legislature would have only three months of its term left by the time the election was conducted. The Chief Executive is not mentioned at all, and there is no suggestion that by-elections require her permission.

No doubt the government will argue that because of the epidemic it is impossible to organise elections. This is revealed as a flimsy excuse by recent events in the US. They may be having a bad epidemic there and the sitting president may be a dick, but they managed to organise a monstrous electoral exercise on the appointed date.

People can do what they really want to do.

Well, we know what our leader really wants to do. She revels in the idea of a LegCo composed entirely of Yespeople, which is what she has now got. The only question is how they are going to tackle the visual problem.

The television view of the Policy Address, for example, is going to look pretty odd with our local Duce orating to a half-empty chamber. Will they move the remaining members around so that the part of the chamber most visible to the cameras has a decent crowd in it?

But this would leave the other half empty, and you know photographers pick up that sort of thing very quickly. We may be tempted to import a cast of extras to sit in the seats formerly owned by democrats and look legislative, but is that legal?

A decorative solution would be to follow the example of the Korean football club which replaced its epidemic-barred fans with a row of (fully dressed) female sex dolls. But this would hardly appeal to the pro-government camp, whose attitude to woman legislators tends to be rather misogynistic.

Help is at hand. You can now get male sex dolls here. Dress them up in smart suits, glue their fingers to the “yes” button and they will be pretty much like most DAB members. Well, slightly quieter but much more handsome.

HKFP is an impartial platform & does not necessarily share the views of opinion writers or advertisers. HKFP presents a diversity of views & regularly invites figures across the political spectrum to write for us. Press freedom is guaranteed under the Basic Law, security law, Bill of Rights and Chinese constitution. Opinion pieces aim to point out errors or defects in the government, law or policies, or aim to suggest ideas or alterations via legal means without an intention of hatred, discontent or hostility against the authorities or other communities.

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Tim Hamlett

Tim Hamlett

Tim Hamlett came to Hong Kong in 1980 to work for the Hong Kong Standard and has contributed to, or worked for, most of Hong Kong's English-language media outlets, notably as the editor of the Standard's award-winning investigative team, as a columnist in the SCMP and as a presenter of RTHK's Mediawatch. In 1988 he became a full-time journalism teacher. Since officially retiring nine years ago, he has concentrated on music, dance, blogging and a very time-consuming dog.