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Saturday, July 16, 2016, 01:00

Passage of medical bill blocked on LegCo’s last day

By Joseph Li

HONG KONG - On the last meeting day of the current-term Legislative Council, medical constituency lawmaker Leung Ka-lau blocked the passing of the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016, which sought to reform the Medical Council of Hong Kong for the benefit of patients, by filibustering.

As the 2012-16 legislative term came to an end at midnight of July 15, the bill, resulting from the hard work of the government, lawmakers and patient groups, automatically became invalid.

As a result, the subsequent bills which intended to regulate private columbaria and fire service engineering installations were also stalled. If the government wishes to bring them up again to the new legislative term, they have to go through a fresh legislative process.

Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she felt very disappointed about the deadlock and called it a case of the tyranny of the minority.

Speaking to the press outside the LegCo Chamber 90 minutes before the deadline, she strongly criticized several opposition lawmakers for ruining bills and funding items they didn’t like, citing three aborted bills, the Copyright (Amendment) Bill and many funding proposals.

While filibustering has become common, she said the “pan-democrats” used various tricks such as adjournment motions, unlimited speeches and motions without prior notices.

She also noted that the opposition had blamed the government for being stubborn and not rescheduling the meeting agenda.

“The government has made concessions as to the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016, which has the support of the citizens, patient groups and well-respected medical experts,” she argued.

“If the government withdraws this bill, we are indebted to the citizens, people who support the bill and the patients. The government cannot give into tyranny of the minority like this. If we do, endless disasters will follow.”

Seeing no hope of passing the bills before the deadline, pro-establishment lawmakers issued a joint declaration condemning the opposition lawmakers. The three bills attached great importance to the welfare of the people. Yet the opposition ignored the interests of the residents to hold up the bills by outrageous filibustering and delaying tactics.

Right from resumption of the debate from 9 am on Friday, Leung, nicknamed “Weird Doctor”, started counting the quorum time and again to waste time. At about 2:30 pm, he even moved a motion to adjourn the meeting, to kill all the pending bills. Even when the adjournment was being debated, Leung still counted the quorum bell.

Every time the quorum bell was rung, the majority of the opposition lawmakers disappeared from the chamber.

Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man told the meeting that if the bill was passed, he would set up a platform comprising doctors, patient groups and lawmakers to monitor implementation of the law. On appointment of arbitration advisers to the preliminary investigation committee, doctors from the frontline and the Hospital Authority would be included.

In his closing remarks just before midnight, Ko said that as a doctor he knows the importance of professional autonomy. Yet if doctors insist on not reforming the Medical Council, it will result in a backlash from society.

Many pro-establishment lawmakers blasted Leung’s irresponsible behavior and protection of the narrow interests of the doctors’ groups. They also slammed the Civic Party for their three voting intentions (for, against and abstain) at second reading that hoped to cover all type of voters. In particular, they criticized Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, a doctor, for delaying the bill and not acting in patients’ interests.

Liberal Party lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan lamented that such a simple, straightforward bill was not passed. It was not the government who let the people down, but the Civic Party who often stood on moral high ground to say they look after the rights of patients. He was very upset that they misled medical students to make them believe their career prospects would be affected by the reform.

Lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong, from the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, described the opposition camp as malicious for stopping the bills and then shifting the blame to the pro-establishment camp.

New People’s Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun criticized the Civic Party as turning themselves the enemies of the people. He was critical of Kwok, who was not taking care of people’s interests, and also questioned Kwok’s proposal to increase medical members of the Medical Council.

Tien called on residents to look at the true face of the Civic Party.

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