SCMP 2012-09-22
CITY4 | CITY | By Tony Cheung

Lawmaker to oppose curbs on filibusters

【Civic Party’s new legislator Dennis Kwok says move to tighten rules to stop delaying tactics could be damaging to democratic process】

New legal-sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang says he is ready to challenge any effort by the pro-government camp to prevent filibustering by tightening the Legco rules.

The barrister and Civic Party member said the Legco president already had enough power to control proceedings and tightening the rules could damage the spirit of the legislature.

Pro-establishment legislators have been advocating a change to the rules of procedure after delaying tactics by radical pan-democrats prevented Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s government restructuring plan from being passed before the end of the last Legco session.

While acknowledging that filibusters “come at a heavy price”, Kwok said any tightening of the rules would be damaging.

“[Filibustering] cannot be used on every single issue – that would stop the functioning of Legco,” Kwok said. “But I think the existing rules of procedure already make it sufficiently difficult for members to continue to filibuster without limitation …

“I am wary of giving the president of Legco more power to shut out legislators who are returned by the people to participate in Legislative Council proceedings … hoping that would silence the dissident voices of minority opinion. That would not work in 21st century Hong Kong.”

A 33-hour filibuster in May by members of People Power and the League of Social Democrats over by-election rules ended when president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing halted the debate.

Kwok suggested that to prevent future political stand-offs, the executive and legislative branches should ensure a better working relationship. He also vowed to carry on with his predecessor Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee’s commitment to abolish all functional constituencies.

Kwok said he was more wary of legislators elected unopposed than of his radical allies.

A post-handover record of 16 candidates won their trade-based seats uncontested this year in the 70-strong legislature, including lawmakers representing the commercial and industrial sectors.

“[Those returned uncontested] represent the biggest stumbling block to Hong Kong’s political development, and those people are not accountable to the Hong Kong people,” Kwok said.

“We have no way of ensuring that they will listen to Hong Kong people when it comes to major issues and I think they are my biggest concern.”

Kwok said the Civic Party would try to work with all other parties while remaining on a moderate and rational path.

He also pledged to join the Legco panel on constitutional affairs and the committee on the rules of procedure to follow up on issues that concern him.

Lawmaker to oppose curbs on filibusters