Hong Kong has proposed a bill that will fine lawmakers who are absent from Legislative Council (LegCo) meetings that are adjourned for lack of quorum. The proposal, gazetted on Friday, comes even as the legislative chamber has emptied of all but one lawmaker who is not aligned with the government.

Lawmakers who are absent without a “valid reason” accepted by the President of the Legislative Council will face financial penalties deducted from their salary under the proposal. The amount of each fine will be determined by the council.

Legislative Council Chamber. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Penalties will be enforced every time a member’s absence causes a meeting to be adjourned due to a lack of lawmakers present under the proposal. The quorum needed for Legislative Council meetings is not less than half of its members, including its President.

The amendments to LegCo’s procedural rules also introduce provisions for members to be suspended for “grossly disorderly conduct.”

The provision proposes to “deprive a misbehaved member of the member’s remuneration and allowance in respect of the period during which the member is suspended from the service of the Council,” the bill read.

It will also allow for the council to meet remotely in “exceptional circumstances,” including situations of emergency or public danger.

Bills introduced in LegCo are expected to pass without any meaningful opposition, after the democratic camp resigned en masse last November.

Prior to their mass resignation, the democratic camp had frequently used filibustering tactics within the legislative chamber, including a “roll call” tactic to count quorum, to delay and frustrate proceedings in protest and in sympathy with unmet demands stemming from the 2019 pro-democracy protests.

The bill will have its first reading by the council next Wednesday.

Dwindling opposition

The proposal comes as the city’s legislative chamber has emptied of all but one lawmaker who is not aligned with the pro-establishment camp, after Civic Passion’s Cheng Chung-tai was ousted from his seat on Thursday.

Cheng was deemed not “patriotic” enough to serve in public office by a election candidate vetting committee made up of Chief Secretary John Lee and six other government officials and pro-establishment heavyweights. The vetting process is part of a new Beijing-mandated overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system that diminishes direct democratic representation in the city’s legislature.

Photo: LegCo webcast screenshot.

The government expressed support for the bill on Friday: “We hope that this would reduce incidents involving grossly disorderly conduct of LegCo Members and deter the abuse of quorum calls for the purpose of filibustering, thereby maintaining the efficiency and solemnity of LegCo and restoring rational discussion in the Council,” a spokesperson said.

Cheng’s ousting comes ten months after the majority of the democratic camp collectively resigned in protest at the disqualification of four colleagues, who were similarly ousted for being “unpatriotic.”

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.