Legco President Andrew Leung on Wednesday slashed debate time on amendments to the National Anthem Bill from 16 hours to 10 to keep proceedings on track for a June 4 vote on the legislation, infuriating pan-dems who claimed they were being silenced.
The pro-democracy camp's various efforts to delay the debate were thwarted, with Leung shooting down a request by the Civic Party's Kwok Ka-ki to switch the debate onto a future relaxation of border controls amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Legco president said only 10 hours were being set aside to discuss 21 amendments to the bill, because the "unruly" behaviour of some lawmakers meant the second reading had taken more time than envisaged.
People Power's Ray Chan, who tabled 16 of the 21 amendments, was furious with the decision.
"You said that members have behaved in a grossly disorderly manner. They just want to speak, but they're not allowed to do so. You don't even give us a chance to calmly explain our amendments," he said to Leung.
"What is the value and use of Legco anymore? We don't even have a chance to have a serious debate. I think Legco nowadays has no value," he said.
The government asked for the National Anthem Bill to be bumped up to the top of the agenda after the pro-establishment camp managed to wrest control of council proceedings from their pro-democracy rivals last month.
In 2017, the National People's Congress approved a move to add the mainland's national anthem law into Annex III of Hong Kong's Basic Law, with legislative councillors given the job of enacting it locally.
The upcoming national security law will also be added into Annex III, although Legco will be sidestepped when it comes to this legislation and it will simply be promulgated instead.
The anthem law will make it illegal for people to "insult" the March of the Volunteers, with offenders risking fines of up to HK$50,000 or three years in prison.