Quick ac­tion needed to halt frantic ‘bat­tle­field meet­ings’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK - By JOSEPH LI in Hong Kong joseph@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

With Fi­nance Com­mit­tee (FC) meet­ings be­ing turned into frantic and fierce bat­tle­fields lately, with a great many fund­ing pro­pos­als de­layed and dragged down by fil­i­busters, Pauline Ng Man-wah, for­mer sec­re­tary­gen­eral of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil Se­cre tariat, said she sup­ports pro­pos­als by FC Chair­man Chan Kin-por to amend the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Pro­ce­dure to com­bat fil­i­bus­ter­ing by op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers.

Chan has pro­posed that leg­is­la­tors can only move one mo­tion with­out ad­vance no­tice at a meeting , and mem­bers ex­pelled from the meeting should be banned from at­tend­ing other FC meet­ings for the whole day.

At the last FC meeting on July 19, the op­po­si­tion camp fil­i­bus­tered for nearly seven hours be­fore pass­ing the HK$36-bil­lion ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing that Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had pro­posed, and stalled funds for the re­de­vel­op­ment of three pub­lic hos­pi­tals. A num­ber of ma­jor pro­pos­als, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of pub­lic colum­baria, Tung Chung New Town ex­ten­sion and a civil ser­vice pay rise, were also de­layed un­til Oc­to­ber.

The op­po­si­tion fre­quently cites Sec­tion 37A of the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Pro­ce­dure as a tool for their

A law­maker may ta­ble more than one mo­tion with­out prior no­tice if they are re­lated, yet (sub­mit­ting) hun­dreds or thou­sands of such mo­tions is clearly an abuse of the rule.”

Pauline Ng Man-wah’s pro­file

Pauline Ng Man-wah was sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil Sec­re­tar­iat from 2008 to 2012, hav­ing risen from the as­sis­tant and deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral posts.

Be­fore that, she was a civil ser­vant work­ing at the erst­while Of­fice of the Un­of­fi­cial Mem­bers of the Ex­ec­u­tive and Leg­isla­tive Coun­cils in 1990.

Af­ter re­tir­ing in 2012, Ng spent four years com­pil­ing a chron­i­cle — A Com­pan­ion to the His­tory, Rules and Prac­tices of the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil of the HKSAR — at the re­quest of then LegCo pres­i­dent Jasper Tsang Yok-sing be­cause perti- fil­i­buster tac­tics. The rule says a mem­ber may ta­ble a mo­tion at the meeting with­out prior no­tice but “pand e m o c r a t i c ” l aw m a ke r s ar­gue that “a mo­tion” does not mean “one mo­tion” and they of­ten ask their as­sis­tants to print and sub­mit count­less sim­i­lar mo­tions dur­ing meet­ings.

“Law­mak­ers can­not amend the gov­ern­ment’s fi­nan­cial pro­pos­als and they have to vote for or against them, but Sec­tion 37A al­lows them to give their views apart from say­ing ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Ng ex­plained.

“A law­maker may ta­ble more than one mo­tion with­out prior no­tice if they are re­lated, ye t (sub­mit­ting) hun­dreds or thou­sands of such mo­tions is clearly an abuse of the rule,” she said.

At the same FC meeting on July 19, which was di­vided into four two-hour ses­sions, Chan or­dered “pan-demo­crat” law­maker nent doc­u­ments were scat­tered around.

Ng cur­rently runs a so­cial en­ter­prise and a web­site, pro­vid­ing use­ful in­for­ma­tion to the el­derly.

She was one of the for­mer pub­lic ser­vants who had helped Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in the 2017 Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Elec­tion, serv­ing as Lam’s cam­paign of­fice man­ager, re­spon­si­ble for of­fice and staff man­age­ment, com­pli­ance of elec­toral law and reg­u­la­tions.

Quite im­por­tant but lit­tle known, she helped Lam keep records of her meet­ings with elec­tors, stake­hold­ers and peo­ple from all walks of the Fer­nando Che­ung ex­pelled in the early stages for re­fus­ing to sit down. But, Che­ung re­turned to the next ses­sion be­cause the four ses­sions were deemed as sep­a­rate meet­ings.

Many law­mak­ers cry foul of this rule. Chan also agrees that it should be amended to en­sure that ex­pelled law­mak­ers are not al­lowed to at­tend meet­ings for the rest of the day.

“FC meet­ings nor­mally take about two hours. But this can be changed if the chair­man thinks more time is needed. For ex­am­ple, he can con­vene a meeting of six hours, with short breaks in be­tween. It’s good if the Com­mit­tee on the Rules of Pro­ce­dure dis­cusses this,” said Ng.

She added that amend­ments to the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Pro­ce­dure will be passed by the com­mit­tee it­self with­out the need to go to the ple­nary meeting. com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly con­cern­ing their ad­vice, sugges­tions and ex­pec­ta­tions.

Af­ter the elec­tion, Ng sent a total of 104 sets of records to Lam’s of­fice to en­able her and rel­e­vant of­fi­cials to fol­low up.

Ng re­vealed she has been ac­quainted with Hong Kong’s new leader since the early 2000s. She was a clerk with the LegCo Fi­nance Com­mit­tee while Lam was deputy sec­re­tary for the trea­sury who rep­re­sented the gov­ern­ment on the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee and both had worked closely to­gether for sev­eral years.

Pauline Ng Man-wah,

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