More arguments as HK’s gridlocked House Committee meets for 16th time and again is unable to elect chair

27-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Arguments continued to rage in a meeting of a deadlocked committee in Hong Kong’s legislature on Friday, as a pro-establishment lawmaker vowed not to bow to opposition demands that she drop her bid to be re-elected chairwoman.

The Legislative Council’s House Committee was again unable to elect its chair at its 16th meeting, with the opposition pan-democrats raising issues about earlier disputes involving the Legco secretariat, in another move seen by their rivals as filibustering.

Over the past two weeks the key committee, which scrutinises bills introduced into Legco and decides when they are put to a final vote, has become the centrepiece of a fight between the opposition camp and Beijing’s offices that oversee the city’s affairs.

Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the central government’s liaison office in the city last week accused pan-democrat Dennis Kwok, who is presiding over the committee, of misconduct by paralysing Legco with filibustering tactics since the start of the legislative session in October.

As deputy chair of the committee in the last legislative session, Kwok has been able to take the reins because the previous chairwoman, Starry Lee Wai-king of the pro-Beijing bloc, stepped down to seek re-election, taking on 18 candidates, all from the rival camp.

Beijing not backing down from brewing battle over Hong Kong jurisdiction

Speaking before Friday’s meeting, Lee urged Kwok to complete the election proceedings as soon as possible. But she rejected calls from her rivals to drop out of the election to end the deadlock.

“We must fulfil a fair election, and [withdrawal] would be unfair and mean bowing to coercion … so I will not consider withdrawing from the election,” Lee said.

“Dropping out will also be handing control of the committee to the rival camp, fulfilling their political motives… and affecting the operation of the council.”

The committee spent the 30-minute meeting arguing over one non-binding resolution, tabled by a pan-democrat, concerning security arrangements at the Legco complex to ensure a smooth election.

The pan-democrats raised the issue of security guards stopping lawmakers from entering the Legco complex last June, after police fired tear gas near the Legco complex during an anti-government protest.

The pro-Beijing bloc said Kwok did not have the authority to put the motion to a vote.

Kwok said there would be at least nine more rounds of debate in the meeting next week.

“It’s really up to members over the pace of the meetings and the way they will be held,” Kwok said.

“I’m not worried about anything. All I am concerned about is how I preside over the election in a fair and proper manner.”

He was referring to a decision by Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen to seek external legal advice in late March over removing Kwok and allowing Lee to preside over the meeting. Legco’s own in-house advice previously said Lee could not do so if she sought to be re-elected.

Kwok said the original view by Legco’s legal adviser should be respected.

“It seems we abided by the past legal advice for the last six to seven months. I’d be very surprised if there was a U-turn on that legal advice. Strong and clear justification will need to be provided on … why we have suddenly come to new [advice],” he said.

The pro-establishment camp welcomed the decision to seek external legal advice, seeing it as a potential game-changer for the impasse.

The camp’s deputy convenor Gary Chan Hak-kan hoped the advice would be provided this month. He also urged the government to launch a legal challenge to rectify the situation.


Category: Hong Kong

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