Pro-democracy lawmakers have accused Legislative Council president Andrew Leung of undermining the council’s rules of procedure, saying his decision to appoint a pro-establishment legislator to oversee the election of a new chairperson for the agenda-setting House Committee was “absolutely unacceptable and groundless".
Leung announced earlier on Friday that Chan Kin-por, who leads the Finance Committee in Legco, would take over from the Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok as the presiding member in the election. Kwok has presided over the election since October, but the committee still has yet to choose a new chairperson.
Kwok slammed Leung’s decision as “illogical and baseless”, and accused him of overstepping the powers conferred to him under rule 92 of the council’s rules of procedures.
Kwok said this only gives the president powers to make decisions on matters that are not already expressly covered by other rules, but “the rules of procedure is obviously very clear on the election of the chairmanship of the House Committee.”
“So if you can apply rule 92 that way… then you can virtually control the entire legislative process… because you could argue that you could use it to override clear and express provisions in the rules of procedure and the house rules”, Kwok said.
The convenor of the pan-democratic camp, Tanya Chan, also disputed Leung’s assertion that he had invited representatives and members belonging to different political affiliations to discuss how to resolve the impasse at the House Committee. She said the pan-democrats were not consulted.
"I think that Mr Andrew Leung has in fact, I would say, de facto destroyed the whole system, including the rules of procedure, our house rules, as well as our practices and conventions," Chan said
She added that Leung’s action was "authoritarian", and appointing Chan Kin-por to oversee the House Committee chairperson election was "absolutely unacceptable and groundless".
She also said that under the principle of seniority in Legco, even if Kwok were to step down from overseeing the election, the responsibility would technically be passed on to Democratic Party lawmaker James To. Another pan-democratic lawmaker, Leung Yiu-chung, would be next in line.
Therefore, she said, the responsibility should not have gone to Chan Kin-por.
The Democratic Party's Helena Wong accused Leung of exercising political control over the election, saying "there is no rule that we can find to justify such an arrangement."
Fellow lawmaker Kenneth Leung also weighed in, warning that a very dangerous precedent was being set.
"As you note that in last week’s House Committee, the secretariat and the legal adviser said under exceptional circumstances, there needs to be a new way of interpreting our rules of procedure, and today, the president again invoked this argument saying that under exceptional circumstances, we have to interpret the rules another way, but this is not in the true spirit of the law."
Legco saw drawn out clashes during the committee’s meeting last Friday under the DAB’s Starry Lee, who declared that she was in charge as the past chair from the previous year.
Scuffles broke out between lawmakers and security staff, after Lee managed to physically occupy the chairperson’s seat ahead of Kwok. Two opposition lawmakers were hospitalised after the chaos.
Last updated: 2020-05-15 HKT 16:41