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







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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