Hong Kong’s legislature has been able to hand in a “gleaming report” after it reviewed and passed a record number of bills without obstruction and filibustering, according to the chairperson of the Legislative Council (LegCo) House Committee, Starry Lee.

Pro-democracy lawmakers quit en masse last year and most opposition figures have been jailed, are on remand, are barred from running in elections or have gone into self-exile abroad in light of the national security law.

Ma Fung-kwok Starry Lee
Lawmakers Ma Fung-kwok (left) and Starry Lee (right) speak to the press on October 19, 2021. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Speaking at the end of the current Legco session, Lee, who is also the pro-establishment DAB party’s chairperson, said the House Committee had submitted a total of 39 government bills and two private bills to the LegCo during the current legislative year, breaking a 20-year record.

Legislative elections set for last September were delayed by the government, citing Covid-19 risks.

The achievements drew a close to what she described as “a very unique” year of 2021.

After opposition lawmakers resigned in protest at the disqualifications of four colleagues last November, only one lawmaker not part of pro-establishment camp – Pierre Chan of the medical sector – has remained. He has said he will not stand for re-election.

“Lawmakers dove into their work at the legislature,” Lee said, “and were able to hand in a gleaming report without filibustering, lack of quorum, nor [someone] charging at the LegCo president’s stand,” she added, in reference to protests in the chamber staged by pro-democracy lawmakers before they quit.

Efficient bill passing

One of the House Committee’s most “efficient” bills was the Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021, she said, as it summoned a subcommittee that met 17 times within a short time in order to implement an election overhaul imposed by Beijing.

In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.

Legislative Council
Legislative Council. Photo: Legislative Council, via Flickr.

Lawmakers also undertook a full review of the LegCo’s rules of procedures and house rules in the past year, Lee said, so future representatives engaging in “misconduct” – such as actions leading to filibustering or lack of quorum – will be penalised with fines. “We hope these changes will allow the legislature to resume its solemnity, and will further improve its efficiency with 90 members in the next legislature,” Lee said.

“Lawmakers have always held an attitude of approving what was right and condemning what was wrong, in the hopes of improving the government’s efficiency in implementing policies,” she said.

In response to a reporter’s question, Lee said she did not believe Hongkongers had lost interest in the legislature’s proceedings after pro-democracy lawmakers left LegCo with virtually no dissent.

She refused to comment on speculation that she might run for the LegCo President’s position in the next term.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.