‘Sweet, sour, bitter and spicy flavours’-why life in HK legislature is like a pair of chopsticks for its president

27-Oct-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Life in Hong Kong’s legislature over the past five years was like a pair of chopsticks, holding sweet, sour, bitter and spicy flavours, the body’s president told a farewell dinner on Monday as members marked the end of the current term.

The end-of-term rite, held in the Legislative Council complex’s dining hall, was attended by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, nursing an injured elbow, along with about 50 cabinet members, ministers and senior officials.

Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, whose usual role limits him to speaking only when making rulings at meetings, took advantage of the occasion, cracking jokes about his colleagues and even Lam as he summed up Legco’s work over the term, which had been extended from the usual four years.

Thanking Lam for attending, Legco House Committee chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king also presented her with a get-well-soon card on behalf of lawmakers. Lam returned to work on Monday after fracturing her elbow in a fall at her official residence, government House, last week.

In his address at the dinner attended by about 100 people, Leung recalled Legco’s bitter periods.

“There were times Legco was forced to come to a halt. There was the July 1 storming, and the House Committee was also paralysed,” he said, referring to the violent trashing of Legco during the social unrest in 2019, and the House Committee’s failure to elect a chair because of filibustering by the opposition bloc.

“We also had a taste of spiciness in the first four years of this term. Even the chief executive could not deliver her policy address in the chamber. I believe no one would like to taste this spiciness again,” Leung said, adding that with recent electoral reforms, “perhaps such a taste will become history forever”.

He also noted: “During the entire five years of this term, not once could we have all the members showing up at meetings. Some were disqualified, some resigned.”

But he hailed the “good taste of sweetness” because Legco passed a lot of bills and government funding requests that could help people’s livelihoods and boost the economy.

Arguably the most eventful since Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997, the sixth term got off to a rocky start in 2016 as six opposition lawmakers were unprecedentedly unseated over their improper oath-taking.

The Legco complex was also wrecked after a group of radicals broke in on July 1, 2019 during the anti-government protests.

Legco reopened in mid-October that year, following a HK$40 million (US$5.14 million) renovation project. But Lam was forced to give her policy address via video after her attempts to deliver it in the chamber were met with heckling and jeers from opposition lawmakers.

The term should have ended in 2020. But in August 2020, Beijing extended it by at least a year after approving an earlier Hong Kong government decision, citing the Covid-19 pandemic, to delay the Legco election, scheduled for September last year.

Some opposition lawmakers refused to serve the extra year in protest against what they saw as Beijing’s intervention.

Last November, another 15 quit over a resolution by China’s top legislative body that disqualified four of their colleagues, leaving the legislature all but devoid of opposition voices.

But Starry Lee earlier said Legco had presented a “shining report card” and hailed its efficiency and effectiveness with proceedings back to “normal” following the departure of opposition lawmakers.

Legco passed a record 45 bills this year the most in a single year since the handover, with another on film censorship set to be endorsed at its last sitting on Wednesday.

Polytechnic University political scientist Chan Wai-keung said the term would be remembered as one of “chaos”.

“While the absence of the opposition voice may have made things run faster, it may also affect the quality of Legco’s work,” he said.

The new term starts in January. The Legco poll is scheduled for December 19, with the nomination period open from October 30 to November 12.



Category: Hong Kong

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