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Saturday, October 07, 2017, 09:33
Rule amendments nothing to worry about: LegCo president
By Willa Wu
Saturday, October 07, 2017, 09:33 By Willa Wu

HONG KONG - Legislative Council President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said on Friday that amendments to LegCo regulations are nothing to worry about as long as they follow proper procedures and enhance LegCo operations. 

He made the remarks as a group of lawmakers proposed amending the LegCo Finance Committee's (FC) rules of procedure to prevent filibustering tactics from hurting LegCo's deliberations on public funding.

Leung made these comments when meeting with the media on the first day of the 2017-18 legislative session. He said the Committee on Rules of Procedure would discuss the need to make changes and submit their views to LegCo for further discussion. 

Leung said that as the LegCo president, he remained neutral about any amendments to the rules of procedures. 

Chan Kin-por, who was re-elected as the chairman of the FC on Friday, said he would arrange a meeting with representatives from the opposition camp to discuss changing FC procedures.

After the discussion, Chan said a special meeting would be held to finalize the changes the FC would table to the Committee on Rules of Procedure. The exact time has not yet been decided. But Chan estimated it would be in one or two weeks.

Chan also discussed the FC's year-end work review meeting held before the LegCo summer recession. He said he was drafting new measures to reduce the number of filibusters at FC meetings. 

Suggested measures include limiting the number of motions each lawmaker can file to only one. 

Among the 64 meetings deliberating government funding requests held in 2016-17, the FC committee spent 10 percent of its time – 12 hours – to handle motions tabled by lawmakers, up from 7.3 percent in the previous year. That has been openly used by the opposition as a parliamentary tactic to hold up the government.  

Paragraph 37A of the Finance Committee Procedure stipulates that a member is can move a motion to express a view on the agenda item without notice during deliberations. But it puts no limits on the numbers of motions filed by one lawmaker.

Other proposed methods include banning lawmakers from requesting for adjournments; prohibiting lawmakers dismissed by the chairman from returning to the meeting on the same day; and shortening the voting time from five minutes to one minute.

Changes to FC procedures could be made by a simple majority. Chan said these suggestions have won majority support among the pro-establishment camp. 

He also dismissed claims that the pro-establishment camp was taking advantage of opposition camp after six lawmakers were disqualified due to illegal oath-taking behavior. 

Chan said filibusters had done great harm to LegCo as well as to society. Many Hong Kong people had already expressed a desire to resolve this problem soon.

In addition, Chan said that even with the by-election being held and the vacant seats being filled with all six opposition lawmakers, the pro-establishment lawmakers still outnumber the opposition. Therefore, the claims they had made about being taken advantage of made no sense, he added. 

LegCo will have its first meeting in its new legislative session next Wednesday. That day, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will deliver her first Policy Address.

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