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GT investigate: How big a crime for HK LegCo opposition to obstruct over 100 bills by filibustering?
After over 100 delayed livelihood bills due to filibustering and violence by HK opposition, a rational LegCo is much relished
Published: Dec 15, 2021 09:46 PM
Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo)  Photo: VCG

Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) Photo: VCG



With the upcoming 2021 Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) elections, it is hard to fathom how chaotic the past few years have been with opposition lawmakers using the filibuster and other malicious tactics to paralyze the legislature and causing a large number of bills related to people's livelihoods to be blocked or delayed.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government calls upon its people to vote for legislative council members who truly love Hong Kong and are committed to the well-being of its people, so that the LegCo can carry out its real function rather than being a political tool for the opposition.

The Global Times discovered that at least 108 bills concerning social livelihoods, including medical, traffic, elderly care, and local infrastructure projects were delayed between 2014 and 2020, according to incomplete statistics, due to filibustering and other tools designed by opposition lawmakers to bring dysfunction to the LegCo.

Tik Chi-yuen, a lawmaker from the pan-democracy camp, told the Global Times that the LegCo had been a battleground over the past few years, as the pro-establishment lawmakers and pan-democratic lawmakers were engaged in running battles. "Even if some bills were good for governance, pan-democratic lawmakers would still oppose them for no reason, which would create even greater rifts," Tik said, noting that this situation played no good for Hong Kong.

"I think non-pro-establishment lawmakers should play the role of problem solving in the LegCo rather than engaging in political infighting," he noted. "If we continue turning the LegCo into a political battlefield, Hong Kong's road ahead will be very difficult," Tik said.

LegCo President Andrew Leung told the Global Times in an earlier interview that some lawmakers were opposed to the central government and the HKSAR government, which led to some bills concerning livelihoods and social issues being politicized. Local economic development and the people's livelihoods have been seriously affected, he said.

To deal with this situation, with the support from the central government and the eager anticipation of local people, LegCo bid farewell to the filibuster as the 6th legCo was extended for more than a year after the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong in mid-2020. It now takes a much shorter time to deliberate bills with 46 government bills having been passed, a 20-year high. 

Improved legislative efficiency has increased the confidence of Hong Kong's citizenry to open a new chapter of orderly governance, observers said.

People walk past campaign banners for Hong Kong Legislative Council candidate Jason Poon ahead of the election to be held on December 19. Photo: AFP

People walk past campaign banners for Hong Kong Legislative Council candidate Jason Poon ahead of the election to be held on December 19. Photo: AFP



Paralyzing the LegCo


Since the illegal "Occupy Central," in 2014,  there have been many chaotic scenes in LegCo meetings, which have severely affected the bills on livelihoods and the economy, especially during social turmoil in 2019. Some lawmakers from the opposition camp usually broke the rules of LegCo meetings, using violence to deter other lawmakers from participating in policy decision-making and rejecting the HKSAR government's application for funding, Willy Fu, a law professor and vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times. 

Statistics show that in the early years of the LegCo without the "filibuster," the LegCo Finance Committee spent an average of 1.12 hours deliberating a project, but this had increased to 3.21 hours in recent years. The main reason is the increase of filibustering and adjournments of meeting. 

The LegCo passed only eight out of 29 bills in 2014 with a 28 percent success rate, down from 48 percent in the 2010-2011 session, according to media reports. 

The 2015-2016 session was particularly challenging and contentious. Council meetings ended prematurely 11 times as not enough lawmakers were present, an occurrence to be witnessed only twice in the previous year. 

Lawmakers have spent around 108 hours on quorum counts, a tactic frequently employed to filibuster government proposals, during the 2015-16 legislative year.

The filibuster in Hong Kong was used with destructive intentions. Filibusters resulted in sluggish progress in the vetting and approval of the funding applications for projects, which not only adversely affected the construction industry, but also hindered economic development and weakened Hong Kong's competitiveness, according to the HKSAR government. 

In a session of the LegCo meeting in May 2016, the undersecretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau said that over the past few years, some members have impeded the normal operations of the LegCo by filibustering in an attempt to force the government to accede to their demands. The Appropriation Bill 2016 was passed by the LegCo in early May 2016.

Thanks to the filibuster, it took LegCo three more rounds of meetings to scrutinize the Bill when compared with the usual completion of the process in the past. Besides this, meetings were adjourned three times due to a lack of quorum. In fact, it was the fourth year in which members put forward loads of amendments to the Appropriation Bill and made incessant quorum calls for the purpose of filibustering.

The LegCo ended its fifth term on July 15, 2016, bogged down in a filibuster by pan-democracy legislators to block the government's proposed reform of the city's medical watchdog, even as it emerged that lawmakers had wasted more than HK$45.6 million in taxpayers' money during this term on taking quorum calls, according to the South China Morning Post.

When it comes to 2019 to 2020, on the one hand, under the double blow of the epidemic and street violence, the economy of Hong Kong had fallen into an unprecedented overall recession, and it became a matter of urgency for the LegCo to pass relevant economic and livelihood relief bills. On the other hand, as of July 16, 2020, 11 of the 90 bills submitted by the government were still pending in the LegCo, local media reported.

Anti-government rioters put a British colony flag inside the chamber of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019 after storming the complex. Photo: AFP

Anti-government rioters put a British colony flag inside the chamber of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019 after storming the complex. Photo: AFP



On the night of July 1, 2019, the Legislative Council building was forcibly occupied and severely damaged by a group of masked rioters. As a result, several meetings of the LegCo and Finance Committee scheduled to be held before the summer recess had to be canceled, and a number of important bills, appropriations, and projects could not be passed as scheduled.

The backlog of over 40 grant applications affected by the occupation of the building was further extended. It involved a total of more than HK$70 billion, mostly for livelihood projects unrelated to politics. These include the redevelopment and expansion of many hospitals, public housing, and elderly home projects, and the Trunk Road T2 and Cha Kwo Ling tunnels which relieve the Kowloon City and Tseung Kwan O traffic congestion.

These projects not only concern the livelihoods of over 300,000 construction workers and their families in Hong Kong, but also affect the general public who eagerly await public rental housing (PRH) flats, beds in public homes, and places in homes for the elderly, local media East Week reported.

There was also a provision for civil service pay increases covering 180,000 civil servants and more than 100,000 staff in subvented organizations. The opposition, dissatisfied with police enforcement in the anti-extradition bill protests, opposed the pay rise and demanded that the government withdraw the funding. Otherwise, they vowed to vote against the whole pay package, affecting more than 200,000 civil servants outside of the police force and staff in subvented organizations.

In another instance, the delay in electing a chairperson had led the Hong Kong House Committee of the LegCo to a "complete shutdown" for more than half a year, resulting in stacks of unresolved bills. 

On May 28, 2020, Starry Lee Wai-king, chairperson of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), was reelected as chairwoman of the House Committee of the LegCo. But as the election commenced, opposition lawmakers led by Dennis Kwok Wing-hang who aimed to obstruct the election shouted out slogans and charged the podium, forcing a LegCo suspension due to the disturbance.

According to the LegCo website, the House Committee makes preparations for Council meetings and considers all business matters. One function of the House Committee is to scrutinize bills introduced to the Council and any subsidiary legislation tabled at Council meetings or presented to the Council for approval. 

These scuffles caused 14 bills and over 20 subsidiary laws to be backlogged in the LegCo, including the national anthem law and a bill to extend maternity leave.

Such a situation had never happened in the history of the LegCo. "In the past, it only took 15 minutes to elect a chairman. Now, no one had been elected after 17 meetings. This shows that the rules have loopholes which cannot address current issues," Chan Kin-por, LegCo Finance Committee chairman, told the Global Times in a previous interview. Chan said the opposition's criticism is only "a thief shouting 'stop thief.'"

In an attempt to bring the deliberation process to a halt, opposition lawmakers have resorted to every conceivable means to undermine the legal status and order of the LegCo.

On May 28, 2020, Hong Kong opposition lawmaker Ted Hui dropped rotten plants in the LegCo chamber during the national anthem law debate, precipitating a 6-hour break of the session. When deliberations resumed on the afternoon of June 4, Hui was ejected after again throwing a plastic bottle containing a foul-smelling liquid even before the meeting had begun.

"At that time it was complete chaos, and the LegCo could not function normally, which further hindered the government from rolling out policies," Fu said. 

The LegCo should be a place where policymakers with different backgrounds, professions, and stances work on policies, holding rational attitudes in order to supervise the government and actively advocate for people's livelihoods and economic development, Fu noted. 



The underdeveloped northern part of Hong Kong adjacent to the high-rises Shenzhen is expected to be developed into a metropolitan area ideal for people to live, work and travel. Photo: VCG

The underdeveloped northern part of Hong Kong adjacent to the high-rises Shenzhen is expected to be developed into a metropolitan area ideal for people to live, work and travel. Photo: VCG



Functioning again


Over the past year since the legislature was extended, it has passed 46 government bills, including some important and complex bills, reaching a new high in numbers compared with an average of about 20 bills passed in the past four legislative years.

The most typical example is the Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Ordinance of 2021, which was passed after 47 hours of deliberation at 17 meetings in just over 40 days.

On appropriations, the Finance Committee of the LegCo approved 120 appropriations this legislative year, involving commitments of about HK$328.2 billion, many of which were for the immediate interests of the public, such as improving people's livelihoods and fighting against COVID-19. The average number of hours needed for the consideration of each proposal has decreased by about 71 percent compared with the past four legislative years.

The elected chairman of the House Committee, Starry Lee Wai-king, said that the LegCo had returned to normal with a "brilliant performance list" and was applauded by the public for returning to the right track.

Record of HK opposition lawmakers blocking normal LegCo proceedings Editor: Feng Qingyin/GT Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Record of HK opposition lawmakers blocking normal LegCo proceedings Editor: Feng Qingyin/GT Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT


 
Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo)  Photo: VCG

Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) Photo: VCG



With the upcoming 2021 Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) elections, it is hard to fathom how chaotic the past few years have been with opposition lawmakers using the filibuster and other malicious tactics to paralyze the legislature and causing a large number of bills related to people's livelihoods to be blocked or delayed.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government calls upon its people to vote for legislative council members who truly love Hong Kong and are committed to the well-being of its people, so that the LegCo can carry out its real function rather than being a political tool for the opposition.

The Global Times discovered that at least 108 bills concerning social livelihoods, including medical, traffic, elderly care, and local infrastructure projects were delayed between 2014 and 2020, according to incomplete statistics, due to filibustering and other tools designed by opposition lawmakers to bring dysfunction to the LegCo.

Tik Chi-yuen, a former lawmaker from the pan-democracy camp, told the Global Times that the LegCo had been a battleground over the past few years, as the pro-establishment lawmakers and pan-democratic lawmakers were engaged in running battles. "Even if some bills were good for governance, pan-democratic lawmakers would still oppose them for no reason, which would create even greater rifts," Tik said, noting that this situation played no good for Hong Kong.

"I think non-pro-establishment lawmakers should play the role of problem solving in the LegCo rather than engaging in political infighting," he noted. "If we continue turning the LegCo into a political battlefield, Hong Kong's road ahead will be very difficult," Tik said.

LegCo President Andrew Leung told the Global Times in an earlier interview that some lawmakers were opposed to the central government and the HKSAR government, which led to some bills concerning livelihoods and social issues being politicized. Local economic development and the people's livelihoods have been seriously affected, he said.

To deal with this situation, with the support from the central government and the eager anticipation of local people, LegCo bid farewell to the filibuster as the 6th legCo was extended for more than a year after the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong in mid-2020. It now takes a much shorter time to deliberate bills with 46 government bills having been passed, a 20-year high. 

Improved legislative efficiency has increased the confidence of Hong Kong's citizenry to open a new chapter of orderly governance, observers said.

People walk past campaign banners for Hong Kong Legislative Council candidate Jason Poon ahead of the election to be held on December 19. Photo: AFP

People walk past campaign banners for Hong Kong Legislative Council candidate Jason Poon ahead of the election to be held on December 19. Photo: AFP



Paralyzing the LegCo


Since the illegal "Occupy Central," in 2014,  there have been many chaotic scenes in LegCo meetings, which have severely affected the bills on livelihoods and the economy, especially during social turmoil in 2019. Some lawmakers from the opposition camp usually broke the rules of LegCo meetings, using violence to deter other lawmakers from participating in policy decision-making and rejecting the HKSAR government's application for funding, Willy Fu, a law professor and vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times. 

Statistics show that in the early years of the LegCo without the "filibuster," the LegCo Finance Committee spent an average of 1.12 hours deliberating a project, but this had increased to 3.21 hours in recent years. The main reason is the increase of filibustering and adjournments of meeting. 

The LegCo passed only eight out of 29 bills in 2014 with a 28 percent success rate, down from 48 percent in the 2010-2011 session, according to media reports. 

The 2015-2016 session was particularly challenging and contentious. Council meetings ended prematurely 11 times as not enough lawmakers were present, an occurrence to be witnessed only twice in the previous year. 

Lawmakers have spent around 108 hours on quorum counts, a tactic frequently employed to filibuster government proposals, during the 2015-16 legislative year.

The filibuster in Hong Kong was used with destructive intentions. Filibusters resulted in sluggish progress in the vetting and approval of the funding applications for projects, which not only adversely affected the construction industry, but also hindered economic development and weakened Hong Kong's competitiveness, according to the HKSAR government. 

In a session of the LegCo meeting in May 2016, the undersecretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau said that over the past few years, some members have impeded the normal operations of the LegCo by filibustering in an attempt to force the government to accede to their demands. The Appropriation Bill 2016 was passed by the LegCo in early May 2016.

Thanks to the filibuster, it took LegCo three more rounds of meetings to scrutinize the Bill when compared with the usual completion of the process in the past. Besides this, meetings were adjourned three times due to a lack of quorum. In fact, it was the fourth year in which members put forward loads of amendments to the Appropriation Bill and made incessant quorum calls for the purpose of filibustering.

The LegCo ended its fifth term on July 15, 2016, bogged down in a filibuster by pan-democracy legislators to block the government's proposed reform of the city's medical watchdog, even as it emerged that lawmakers had wasted more than HK$45.6 million in taxpayers' money during this term on taking quorum calls, according to the South China Morning Post.

When it comes to 2019 to 2020, on the one hand, under the double blow of the epidemic and street violence, the economy of Hong Kong had fallen into an unprecedented overall recession, and it became a matter of urgency for the LegCo to pass relevant economic and livelihood relief bills. On the other hand, as of July 16, 2020, 11 of the 90 bills submitted by the government were still pending in the LegCo, local media reported.

Anti-government rioters put a British colony flag inside the chamber of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019 after storming the complex. Photo: AFP

Anti-government rioters put a British colony flag inside the chamber of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019 after storming the complex. Photo: AFP



On the night of July 1, 2019, the Legislative Council building was forcibly occupied and severely damaged by a group of masked rioters. As a result, several meetings of the LegCo and Finance Committee scheduled to be held before the summer recess had to be canceled, and a number of important bills, appropriations, and projects could not be passed as scheduled.

The backlog of over 40 grant applications affected by the occupation of the building was further extended. It involved a total of more than HK$70 billion, mostly for livelihood projects unrelated to politics. These include the redevelopment and expansion of many hospitals, public housing, and elderly home projects, and the Trunk Road T2 and Cha Kwo Ling tunnels which relieve the Kowloon City and Tseung Kwan O traffic congestion.

These projects not only concern the livelihoods of over 300,000 construction workers and their families in Hong Kong, but also affect the general public who eagerly await public rental housing (PRH) flats, beds in public homes, and places in homes for the elderly, local media East Week reported.

There was also a provision for civil service pay increases covering 180,000 civil servants and more than 100,000 staff in subvented organizations. The opposition, dissatisfied with police enforcement in the anti-extradition bill protests, opposed the pay rise and demanded that the government withdraw the funding. Otherwise, they vowed to vote against the whole pay package, affecting more than 200,000 civil servants outside of the police force and staff in subvented organizations.

In another instance, the delay in electing a chairperson had led the Hong Kong House Committee of the LegCo to a "complete shutdown" for more than half a year, resulting in stacks of unresolved bills. 

On May 28, 2020, Starry Lee Wai-king, chairperson of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), was reelected as chairwoman of the House Committee of the LegCo. But as the election commenced, opposition lawmakers led by Dennis Kwok Wing-hang who aimed to obstruct the election shouted out slogans and charged the podium, forcing a LegCo suspension due to the disturbance.

According to the LegCo website, the House Committee makes preparations for Council meetings and considers all business matters. One function of the House Committee is to scrutinize bills introduced to the Council and any subsidiary legislation tabled at Council meetings or presented to the Council for approval. 

These scuffles caused 14 bills and over 20 subsidiary laws to be backlogged in the LegCo, including the national anthem law and a bill to extend maternity leave.

Such a situation had never happened in the history of the LegCo. "In the past, it only took 15 minutes to elect a chairman. Now, no one had been elected after 17 meetings. This shows that the rules have loopholes which cannot address current issues," Chan Kin-por, LegCo Finance Committee chairman, told the Global Times in a previous interview. Chan said the opposition's criticism is only "a thief shouting 'stop thief.'"

In an attempt to bring the deliberation process to a halt, opposition lawmakers have resorted to every conceivable means to undermine the legal status and order of the LegCo.

On May 28, 2020, Hong Kong opposition lawmaker Ted Hui dropped rotten plants in the LegCo chamber during the national anthem law debate, precipitating a 6-hour break of the session. When deliberations resumed on the afternoon of June 4, Hui was ejected after again throwing a plastic bottle containing a foul-smelling liquid even before the meeting had begun.

"At that time it was complete chaos, and the LegCo could not function normally, which further hindered the government from rolling out policies," Fu said. 

The LegCo should be a place where policymakers with different backgrounds, professions, and stances work on policies, holding rational attitudes in order to supervise the government and actively advocate for people's livelihoods and economic development, Fu noted. 



The underdeveloped northern part of Hong Kong adjacent to the high-rises Shenzhen is expected to be developed into a metropolitan area ideal for people to live, work and travel. Photo: VCG

The underdeveloped northern part of Hong Kong adjacent to the high-rises Shenzhen is expected to be developed into a metropolitan area ideal for people to live, work and travel. Photo: VCG



Functioning again


Over the past year since the legislature was extended, it has passed 46 government bills, including some important and complex bills, reaching a new high in numbers compared with an average of about 20 bills passed in the past four legislative years.

The most typical example is the Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Ordinance of 2021, which was passed after 47 hours of deliberation at 17 meetings in just over 40 days.

On appropriations, the Finance Committee of the LegCo approved 120 appropriations this legislative year, involving commitments of about HK$328.2 billion, many of which were for the immediate interests of the public, such as improving people's livelihoods and fighting against COVID-19. The average number of hours needed for the consideration of each proposal has decreased by about 71 percent compared with the past four legislative years.

The elected chairman of the House Committee, Starry Lee Wai-king, said that the LegCo had returned to normal with a "brilliant performance list" and was applauded by the public for returning to the right track.

Record of HK opposition lawmakers blocking normal LegCo proceedings Editor: Feng Qingyin/GT Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Record of HK opposition lawmakers blocking normal LegCo proceedings Editor: Feng Qingyin/GT Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT