Two types of “filibusters” can be found in the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) these days. First, there are the members of “People Power” Raymond Wong Yuk-man and Albert Chan Wai-yip who drags out speeches at meetings with long sentences and superfluous verbiage. Wong and Chan have succeeded in causing annoyance among the public, for the manner in which they are wasting public money and time. More importantly, it hinders the implementation of vital government policies.
The other type of filibusterer is chamber members insisting on laboring the council with trivial issues. From all those rubbish speeches, we can more or less conclude how bad their daily work performances are. Or we can just say, as far as the public interest is concerned, they have done nothing noteworthy. Examples can be given at any time.
A few days ago, a LegCo session discussed the means of providing preferential treatment on public transport for people in need, especially the elderly. Wong Shing Chi, a Democratic Party member, rebuked the Mass Transit Railway Corporation over the signs in trains reminding passengers to voluntarily give up their seats to others in need. Wong charged that the signs are not clear enough. And Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, secretary for welfare and labor, together with one of the bureau’s high officials, patiently explained the government has contacted the MTR frequently to press the policy of asking able passengers to surrender their seats to other people in need.
Compared with reducing train fares, which affect people’s livelihoods, “offering seats to someone in need” seems so minor that it should not be presented in the chamber’s schedule. With one LegCo member and two top-rank government officials discussing, this appears to some extent another kind of “filibuster”. Such legislators should be criticized, but principal officials too are wasting their talent on a petty job. If officials immediately said, “Ok, we’ll pass the case to the MTR. And, chairman, next question please...” that will end the meaningless discussion.
Whenever officials come across such issues, they don’t have to be afraid. The opposition faction will not stop pestering any official if they see that he is weak. Give immediate and full responses to all silly questions contributes in a sense to another type of “filibuster”. Let LegCo meetings go smoothly and halt all kinds of “filibusters”. Officials must show strength, and this should be included in the “principal officials accountability system”.
Questions about whether elderly residents of “outlying islands” wanting to travel to urban districts should enjoy concessionary fares were raised by another opposition party member Leung Yiu-chung, a top member of the Neighborhood and Workers Service Center (NWSC). He had no idea that many outlying islands ferries’ ticket machines are outdated and therefore cannot work in conjunction with the octopus card. Renewing ticket machines take time. It is common sense. NWSC often boasts that it cares for the poor. What a pity that they have scant knowledge about poor people and their means of transport.
One more example, Raymond Wong Yuk-man, a member of the People Power, presented an even more boring motion. When Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, secretary of constitutional and mainland affairs, came out to save his fellow from embarrassment and said, “Let me try to say two words.” Wong said, “You are smart, you can say three words!”
Questions raised by voters’ chamber representatives should be to the point and meet a high standard of debate. The agenda of chamber meetings should also be fluent without waste of time. One of the reasons many citizens nickname LegCo as “Garbage LegCo” is: the chamber always “discusses without decisions, makes decisions without execution”.
September’s election should tell who don’t understand the needs of the public, because of a lack of communication with the people at large, but are simply taking valuable chamber seats. Voters will decide how the Hong Kong “representative government system” develops. The September election is the greatest touchstone, far more important than any Hong Kong election in the past.
The author is a current affairs commentator.