Editorial:Storm over possible ousting of lawmakers

【明報專訊】A new political storm has blown up in the Legislative Council shortly after the resumption of Legco meetings in the extended term. The concern now is about whether the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) will add an item to its agenda to deal with the disruption of Legco's operation. As the possibility of the NPCSC disqualifying several pan-democratic lawmakers cannot be ruled out, the pan-democratic camp has stated clearly that they will ''resign en masse'' in response if that happens. Legco meetings have been adjourned thrice for lacking a quorum since Legco's resumption last month. Until now, only four uncontroversial bills have been passed. It is one thing to filibuster the legislation of controversial bills, but it is another thing to paralyse the legislature by ''scorched-earth'' tactics. Likewise, it is one thing to stop scorched-earth politics, but it may also provoke a serious backlash if the action is too heavy-handed. Things are bound to develop in the opposite direction if pushed to the limit. If all parties ignore the constraints, are dead set against each other and reject communication, there will be no peace for Hong Kong.

Beijing has implemented the national security law not only to curb ''Hong Kong independence'' and interference by external forces, but also to tackle the paralysis of the Legislative Council. Before departing for an NPCSC meeting in Beijing this week, committee member Tam Yiu-chung criticised pro-democracy lawmakers for having disrupted the normal operations of Legco ceaselessly since the resumption of Council meetings in October by abusing the Rules of Procedure and the quorum call. He said they had violated their obligations as Legislative Council members by trying every means to force the adjournments of meetings. Whether the issue of handling the problem of Hong Kong Legco's operation will be added to the agenda of the upcoming NPCSC meeting has become a concern of all sides.

Article 104 of the Basic Law requires all Legislative Council members to espouse the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR. The National Security Law for Hong Kong stipulates that it is an offence of subverting the state power if anyone ''seriously interferes in, disrupts, or undermines the performance of duties and functions in accordance with the law by ... the body of power of the HKSAR''. Rumour in the political circles has it that a number of pan-democratic lawmakers will likely be disqualified. The democrats have stressed that the pro-democracy lawmakers will resign en masse if anyone of them is disqualified.

The purpose of a legislature is to solve rather than create problems. A lawmaker is supposed to join a legislature with the aim of getting things done rather than trying to stop things from being done. The pan-democratic camp has stressed that asking for a headcount is in accordance with the Basic Law and the requirement of Legco's Rules of Procedure. Technically speaking, that is very true indeed. However, if the roll is called for more than ten times a day and more than two hours are wasted merely on this, one can certainly say this is not what the Rules of Procedure are originally intended for. Nor could this be the expected scenario when the Basic Law was formulated.

Although filibustering is allowed in parliamentary culture as a way to stop the passing of highly controversial bills, it should be supported by legitimate reasons and be done to a reasonable extent. Malicious filibustering with an aim to paralyse the government is certainly not the purpose of the legislature. One month into the resumption of meetings, Legco has already been adjourned thrice due to the lack of a quorum. Only four bills have been passed so far. Even simple amendments to bills were adopted only after some arduous work. They were only technical amendments that have nothing to do with any ''evil law''.

It is understandable why ''scorched-earth politics in Legco'' has become the concern of the central government. Still, it is best to leave the issue of Legco's internal operation to Legco itself. If the central government takes the strong action of disqualifying the lawmakers directly, it will certainly lead to the biggest political shock waves, which is undesirable.

明報社評 2020.11.10:立法會風雲再起 物極必反要留神







■/ Glossary 生字 /

en masse /ˌɒ̃ ˈmæs/:all together, and usually in large numbers

adjourn /əˈdʒɜːn/:to stop a meeting or an official process, especially a trial, for a period of time

quorum /ˈkwɔːrəm/:the smallest number of people who must be at a meeting before it can begin or decisions can be made


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