Hong Kong pro-establishment lawmakers are looking to further limit their own powers and toughen the house rules at the Legislative Council. The move comes months after the opposition quit en masse in protest.

At a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, lawmakers explored amendments such as limiting the number of members allowed on committees.

Paul Tse
Paul Tse. File photo: LegCo.

Paul Tse, chairman of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, said on Tuesday that the suggestions were to strike a “balance between the effective operation of the council and the right of speech of legislators.”

Suggestions included cancelling legislators’ power to call for a quorum count at meetings, limiting the number of members in committees to a maximum of 15, limiting the debate time for government and legislator bills, and setting adjournments to last between 1.5 and 4 hours only.

Tse added that the President of the Legislative Council Andrew Leung would seek external legal advice to make sure that the amendments would be in accordance with the Basic Law and other legislation.

The Legislative Council is currently devoid of any opposition lawmakers after the pro-democracy camp resigned en masse in solidarity with four of their colleagues who were disqualified by the government for allegedly endangering national security.

Carrie Lam Legislative Council Q&A
Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a Q&A session at the Legislative Council on February 4, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Tse said that the remaining lawmakers aimed to pass relevant amendments before the end of the current term of the Legislative Council.

According to Ming Pao, former Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan slammed the amendments as the pro-establishment camp “auto-castrating” their own power, aimed at minimising any resistance in the legislature.

Former pro-democracy lawmakers had previously used quorum counts as a means to filibuster. The Legislative Council rules of procedure were amended in 2017 to give committee chairpersons the power to stop what they consider as “repeated or irrelevant” speech.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.