Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 08:52
Leung appeals to HK people to condemn filibuster
By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Tuesday appealed to Hong Kong people to speak out and stop the filibustering tactics being used by some opposition legislators during the budget debate.

Leung warned the filibustering was threatening to cripple the government’s ability to meet important financial responsibilities — beginning from next month.

Speaking to the media before the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Leung said the filibusters in the Legislative Council (LegCo) had not only delayed approval of the government’s budget, but the work of the entire legislature.

Without the LegCo’s approval to withdraw cash from the reserves, Leung warned that the government would have difficulties financing public services from early June. This included social security payments for the elderly and low-income households.

“I urge members of public to speak out to these few legislators and urge them to stop filibustering immediately,” said Leung. “They are not exercising the duty of a LegCo member — as they declared right at the beginning that it was a filibuster.”

Leung said the government would not seek interim funding again to cover recurring expenses in the coming months, out of concern that this might be an excuse for the filibusters to continue.

Public hospitals, universities and the LegCo will miss their regular funding payments for June as the government concentrates resources on essential public services. Officials suggested social welfare would also be affected from late June.

LegCo President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing had earlier suggested the budget vote could take place by the end of May. But he admitted on Tuesday that the goal had become a remote possibility after a week of slow progress. This is increasingly threatening to cripple LegCo’s ability to perform its normal duties.

To avoid a seriously delayed budget vote, the LegCo Secretariat told legislators on Tuesday the chamber meeting will adjourn an hour later from today (Wednesday). The president is also to announce tighter controls on budget speeches.

Jasper Tsang did not elaborate on this when he spoke on the sidelines of an event on Tuesday. But he did stress that no matter whether a lawmaker was given seven minutes or 70 hours to speak, he or she should express themselves in that given time.

One of the options Tsang asked lawmakers to consider, as discovered by Tam Yiu-chung of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), was to impose a 10-hour limit for each batch of amendments tabled by lawmakers behind the filibusters.

It may take several more days to vote down all of the filibustering amendments. But Tam hopes the president can wrap up the debate before next weekend. He also urged lawmakers responsible for the filibusters to stop making calls for a quorum.

Tam is prepared to stay in the chamber on Saturday and Wong Kwok-hing, from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, is willing to stay overnight in his seat. But others warned that the risk of there not being enough people to make up a quorum might delay things further.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee of the New People Party appealed for stricter discipline from her fellow lawmakers.

Sin Chung-kai of the Democratic Party reiterated that they did not oppose the Jasper Tsang’s use of discretionary powers to stop the debate.