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Friday, July 22, 2016, 00:21

Tsang defends his handling of filibustering

By Joseph Li
Tsang defends his handling of filibustering

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, outgoing president of the Legislative Council, said the quorum rule is stipulated in the Basic Law and he has to ring the bell if anyone states there is an insufficient quorum. (Roy Liu / China Daily)

HONG KONG — Outgoing President of the Legislative Council Jasper Tsang Yok-sing refuted arguments that he had been weak in curbing rampant filibustering tactics adopted by opposition lawmakers in the legislature in the past four years.

The 2012-16 Legislative Council term ended on July 15 amid filibusters and ringing of quorum bells. Medical constituency lawmaker Leung Ka-lau, nicknamed “Weird Doctor” for his unconventional style, dragged down the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2016 in order to protect doctors’ interests. The following bills on private columbaria and fire service engineering installations also lapsed due to insufficient time.

“(Basic Law Committee member) Lau Nai-keung said I was going easy on filibusters and said there were many ways to stop them. One person cannot filibuster. If some ‘pan-democrats’ were not helping him, Leung alone could not play the game. Also, the pro-establishment camp was ineffective,” he argued.

“If they wanted to beat the quorum bell, they should stay there,” said Tsang during an exclusive interview with China Daily.

“This also showed that if the opposition wants to make life difficult for the government, the government can’t do anything,” he said.

“I hope (discipline) during the next term of Legislative Council will be better,” said Tsang, who will step down at the end of this term after first becoming a lawmaker in 1997 and serving as president for eight years.

However, despite his best intentions, radicals and “localists” may be elected to the legislature and continue to make trouble.

Tsang said during the 2012-16 term, 83 out of 89 bills were passed. The result was good and no one could say LegCo is ineffective.

“From the viewpoint of the ‘pan-democrats’ as the minority, they know they will surely lose if matters are put to the vote. So they filibuster to force the government into negotiations,” he explained.

Tsang noted that the quorum is stipulated in the Basic Law and he has to ring the bell if anyone states there is an insufficient quorum. But in some foreign parliaments, there is no quorum requirement or just a very low one.

“In some foreign parliaments, the bell only rings at beginning of meeting and voting. I thought the quorum is not needed throughout the meeting. The former LegCo legal adviser disagreed and so did an independent counsel from England and LegCo’s new legal adviser.

“If I had an authoritative legal opinion that supported my view, I would not have been allowed to ring the bell. Those who objected might seek judicial reviews, yet an interpretation by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee might be very controversial,” he said.

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