Filibuster flameout

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As the embers cool on LegCo and  the election campaign fires up, the filibuster tactic is being cooled off  in favour of getting things done. It’s a race against time to pass legislation. 

(Photo: ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung is a bit tired of his long-standing filibuster, but he expects more filibuster will come in the new LegCo.)

The race is on to pass legislation before the year’s end. Legislators’ appetite for filibustering has been replaced with a hunger win on the campaign trail. It creates an opportunity for legislation and government spending to finally be approved.


Filibustering firebrands

Even before CY Leung (梁振英) took office , ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄) (shown in photo), Albert Chan (陳偉業) and ‘Mad Dog’ Raymond Wong Yuk-man (黃毓民) were in full filibuster mode, blocking the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 2012, i.e. ‘Replacement Mechanism’ bill. They failed, but it started a four year fire burning in LegCo with wave after wave of filibuster gumming up the  mechanics of LegCo. ‘Long Hair’ says there may be a slight lowering of the temperature, but he expects the filibuster tactic to be sparked up again in the new LegCo.


Finally, cooling consensus

CY Leung initiated several controversial bills in the 5th LegCo, including Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link project extra appropriation, Hong Kong Airport’s third runway proposal, NorthEast New Territories new development area study appropriation, and addition of means testing to the Old Age Living Allowance . Legislators  ‘Long Hair’, ‘Mad Dog’, Albert Chan and other pan-dem LegCo members have led a futile effort to filibuster, almost always to no avail. Almost.


The budget will pass

LegCo president Jasper Tsang (曾鈺成) announced the the deadline of 2016 Appropriation Bill, i.e. Financial Secretary John Tsang’s (曾俊華) 2016-17 Budget, is set for 11 May, implying the filibuster led by ‘Long Hair’, Albert Chan, ‘Mad Dog’, Ray Chan (陳志全) and some pan-dem members is sure to be guillotined on that day. Both ‘Long Hair’ and Albert Chan have decided to let it go for the remaining months.

“All the controversial bills are all passed, and President Tsang is going to guillotine my filibuster in the Budget, so probably I won’t launch any filibuster for the bills left to be passed in the current legislative session,” says ‘Long Hair’.

“The bill about computerisation and system and equipment enhancement of the Police Force is far less controversial, compared to Express Rail Link project and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge project, and also the remaining bills left to be passed are mainly about livelihood issues like cycling path construction and hospital extension projects, so I now have no plans to filibuster anymore,” says Albert Chan.


Nothing’s dead down here, just a little tired  

“Standard work hour legislation, universal retirement protection and further appropriation of North East New Territories new development area are expected to be the controversies in the 6th LegCo,” says ‘Long Hair’ who is still considering his re-election prospects for the September 2016 LegCo election. “There will be many chances to filibuster in the future. It will be the job for localists.”

“If you think filibustering is meaningless, and choose not to do so, then what’s the point of attending the meetings in LegCo? It is the only useful way under the principle of peaceful protest,” he emphasises.


What will pass

For starters, the Appropriations bill, better known as ‘the budget’, will pass. John Tsang included many welfare measures that will be popular with the LSD, Labour Party and other radical legislators’ voter base. Blocking these measures would give parties like the ‘grassroots’-targeting DAB a stick to beat them with on the campaign trail.

In the Finance Committee, Sustainable Agricultural Development Fund, CY Leung’s idea in his 2016 Policy Address, is likely to be approved by the end of the session.. A bill about new computer system for the Immigration Department to run ‘Next Generation Electronic Passport System’ follows. A new computer system and equipment enhancement for the Hong Kong Police Force, separated into two bills and long languishing in the Finance Committee, will be next on the agenda.