英文

Editorial:Paralysis at House Committee

【明報專訊】AFTER 16 meetings, the House Committee of the Legislative Council has yet to elect a chairperson. Two House Committee meetings will be convened tomorrow, and they will be chaired by pan-democratic and pro-establishment lawmakers respectively. It remains uncertain whether chaos or clashes will ensue. The paralysis at the House Committee, which has lasted for more than half a year, has rendered the Legislative Council unable to discharge its functions. This shows that Hong Kong's institutions have collapsed and political struggles now reign supreme.

The Legislative Council was reconvened last October, i.e. more than half a year ago. But the House Committee has yet to elect its chairperson and vice chairperson. As Starry Lee from the DAB is standing for reelection as chairperson of the House Committee, she cannot host the election herself. Vice chairperson Dennis Kwok, a pan-democrat, is hosting the election. Pan-democrats are filibustering the election process, and the meeting has remained stuck on the procedures for the election and some bills which pan-democrats say are related to the procedures of the meeting. As a result, the House Committee has not been able to function. The House Committee's main responsibilities include the establishment of bills committees for the deliberation on different bills so as to make preparations for their second readings. As a result of the paralysis at the House Committee, more than ten bills have not had their bills committees established. They include the national anthem bill, which is opposed by pan-democrats, and a number of bills concerning the economy and bread-and-butter issues.

The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council and the Liaison Office have earlier criticised pan-democrats for adopting a ''political scorched-earth'' tactic. They named Dennis Kwok, arguing that he might have committed ''misconduct in public office''. This has aroused quite a lot of controversy. Given the strained relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China, anything that has to do with the central government or the mainland will become highly politicised. The central government believes that it is absolutely right to punish behaviour that insults the national anthem through the proposed national anthem law. The SAR government says that to legislate for the national anthem is to ''fulfil a responsibility''. But pan-democrats and their supporters believe that the legislation ''undermines free speech''. However, the paralysis at the House Committee does not merely affect the national anthem bill. It has also made the Legislative Council unable to discharge other functions and handle bills that have to do with bread-and-butter issues and the economy. Some pan-democrats admit that the goal of their filibustering is not only to block the enactment of the national anthem bill but also to paralyse the Legislative Council in order to fight for the ''Five Demands''.

The anti-amendment storm has brought about a structural change to Hong Kong politics. It has dealt a heavy blow to the SAR government's governance and visibly boosted the opposition. Another fundamental change is that many people now accept that ''the goal can justify the means''. To achieve a political objective, it does not matter what kinds of means are used. This is a mindset shared by people from different camps. Take the paralysis at the House Committee. There are indeed some people in society who support pan-democrats' ''political scorched-earth'' tactics.

Over the past five legislative years, the President of the Legislative Council or the Legislative Council Commission has sought external legal advice seven times and decided whether to adopt it depending on the situation. This time around, opinions commissioned from Senior Counsels outside Legco have provided a way out of the paralysis at the House Committee. The crux of the matter is whether lawmakers from different sides are willing to make good use of this opportunity to climb down or whether they are determined to let the farce of not electing a chairperson after half a year continue.

■明報社評 2020.05.07:立會失序失範失能 癱瘓問題必須解決

立法會內務委員會經過16次會議,仍未選出主席,明天內會舉行兩場會議,分別由民主派和建制派議員主持,會否出現混亂衝突,仍是未知之數。內會停擺導致立法會無法履行應有職能,癱瘓超過半年,突顯本港制度崩壞,政治鬥爭凌駕一切。

去年10月立法會復會,至今半年有餘,然而內務委員會仍未選出正副主席。民建聯李慧琼爭取連任內會主席,不能主持內會選舉,改由民主派的副主席郭榮鏗主持。民主派採取拉布策略,會議一直糾纏於選舉程序,以及一些民主派認為「涉及會議程序」的議案,導致內會無法運作。內會主要職能,包括成立法案委員會審議不同法案,為法案恢復二讀作準備。內會停擺導致10多條法案未能成立委員會審議,當中既有泛民反對的《國歌條例草案》,亦包括多項經濟民生法案。

早前國務院港澳辦和中聯辦批評泛民「政治攬炒」,點名質疑郭榮鏗「涉嫌公職人員行為失當」,引起不少爭議。香港內地關係緊繃,任何事情一旦牽扯到中央或內地,都變得高度政治化。中央認為《國歌法》懲處侮辱國歌行為是理所當然,特區政府立法是「履行責任」,可是泛民及其支持者則認為立法「有損言論自由」,然而內務委員會停擺,並非單單影響《國歌法》,立法會無法履行應有職能,即使民生經濟法案亦無法處理,一些泛民中人不諱言,拉布目標不僅是封殺《國歌法》,更是為了癱瘓立法會,爭取「五大訴求」。

反修例風暴對香港政治生態帶來根本改變,除了特區政府管治重挫、反對力量顯著壯大,另一重大變化是很多人都接受「目標可以合理化手段」,為了達到政治目標,使用什麼手段並不重要,不同陣營都有人抱着這樣的心態。以內會停擺為例,社會上確有好些人支持泛民「政治攬炒」。

過去5個立法年度,立法會主席或行管會曾七度尋求外間法律意見,依循與否視乎具體情况。今次外聘資深大律師的意見,為打破眼前內會僵局提供了一條出路,問題在於各派議員是否願意善用這個下台階,還是執意讓開會半年仍選不出主席的荒謬情况延續下去。

■Glossary(生字)

convene:to arrange for people to come together for a formal meeting

render:to cause sb/sth to be in a particular state or condition

discharge:to do everything that is necessary to perform and complete a particular duty

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