Ex-Sec­re­tar­iat chief says con­sen­sus will bring an end to fil­i­buster tac­tics

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

T h e L e g i s l a t i v e C o u n c i l ’s Rules of Pro­ce­dure have been se­verely abused in re­cent years by the op­po­si­tion camp which is us­ing them as tools for fil­i­busters, says Pauline Ng Man­wah, for­mer sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the LegCo Sec­re­tar­iat.

In her view, the rules should be re­viewed and amended from time to time as nec­es­sary, as amend­ments had been made many times in LegCo’s his­tory. She sug­gests that th­ese can be car­ried out by con­sen­sus in the leg­is­la­ture.

Ng, who was sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the LegCo Sec­re­tar­iat from 2008 to 2012 when Jasper Tsang Yok-sing was LegCo pres­i­dent (2008-16), told China Daily that dis­ci­pline at LegCo meet­ings has “gone mad” fol­low­ing her re­tire­ment.

A pi­o­neer of the LegCo Sec­re­tar­iat for more than 20 years since 1990, Ng said the LegCo Rules of Pro­ce­dure are in ref­er­ence to those of the Par­lia­ment of the United King­dom on the un­der­stand­ing of mu­tual trust, mu­tual re­spect and ef­fec­tive op­er­a­tion of the leg­is­la­ture.

Un­for­tu­nately, Hong Kong’s op­po­si­tion camp launched their first mas­sive fil­i­buster in May 2012 to counter the gov­ern­ment’s leg­isla­tive pro­posal to pre­vent law­mak­ers who have re­signed from join­ing by-elec­tions within six months af­ter their res­ig­na­tion.

“A l t h o u g h t h a t f i l i b u s t e r even­tu­ally failed, it hurt many peo­ple’s hearts and has left a deep and far-reach­ing im­pact, with mu­tual trust drop­ping to the low­est point and peo­ple un­will­ing to lis­ten to what the op­po­site camp says,” she re­called.

The op­po­si­tion’s most com­mon fil­i­buster tac­tic is mak­ing repet­i­tive speeches dur­ing the amend­ment stage of bills and mis­us­ing the quo­rum bells to waste time.

In the past few years, many LegCo ple­nary meet­ings had to be aborted due to such tac­tics, with amend­ments to the Med­i­cal Regis­tra­tion Or­di­nance (which aimed to re­form the

Amend­ments should be made by a near con­sen­sus in the leg­is­la­ture to en­sure the new ar­range­ment is mu­tu­ally ac­cept­able.”

med­i­cal watch­dog body) be­ing the big­gest vic­tim and dragged down dur­ing the last meeting of the 2012-16 leg­isla­tive term with­out pro­ceed­ing to de­bate.

On the quo­rum bell is­sue, Ng said she’s aware that many for­eign par­lia­ments have abol­ished the prac­tice of a mem­ber re­quest­ing the speaker of the house to es­tab­lish the quo­rum at any time dur­ing a meeting. She also notes that the quo­rum in for­eign par­lia­ments is very low. In the UK House of Com­mons, the quo­rum is merely 40 out of 650 mem­bers; while

Pauline Ng Man-wah,

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