Lawmakers on Thursday began debate on a controversial plan to change Legco's rules of procedure with the opposition accusing the president of hurting the council's credibility by imposing a time limit on speakers.
The council is debating 54 amendments to the rules and Legco President Andrew Leung has limited the time for each speaker to 15 minutes.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To said the arrangement simply doesn’t make sense. “We would only be able to have 10 seconds to speak on each [amendment]. We won’t be able to read it out. Can you apply some common sense on this debate?” he asked.
But Leung said his decision was final and not up for debate.
“If we have separate debates, members will be able to speak at length. And we will not be able to tackle all the amendments – even if we have the rest of the year,” he said.
Opposition lawmakers say the controversial changes to the council's rules of procedure will hurt the legislature's power to monitor the government.
But the pro-Beijing camp say their proposals will help restore efficiency and curb filibustering.
Pan-democratic legislators had tried to delay the discussions with constant headcounts and making lengthy speeches during a debate on a subsidiary piece of legislation on the Trainee Solicitors Amendment Rules. But rival lawmakers cut short the debate by moving an adjournment motion.
The convenor of the pro-democracy camp, lawmaker Charles Mok, said the proposed changes will probably pass, as the Legco president has allotted more time to debate them.
But Mok said the pan-democrats will do what they can to inform the public that these changes will undermine Legco's role in monitoring the government, and allow authorities to push through unwelcome legislation, such as national security laws "with little to no discussion".
The meeting was at one point suspended for two hours, after the pan-dems want to negotiate for more time to speak on the proposals. But their request was rejected.
Last updated: 2017-12-07 HKT 15:56