December 12, 2017

Legco chief aims to wrap up debate on house rules by Dec 18

EJ Insight》
Legco chief aims to wrap up debate on house rules by Dec 18
Today, 13:18

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen feels the tussle between pan-democratic lawmakers and the establishment camp in relation to a debate over proposed changes to the Legco’s rules of procedure cannot drag on endlessly.

Leung told reporters Monday that the debate on house rule changes will end no later than next Monday, with additional meetings set to be held for the purpose, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The aim is to wrap up the debate by Dec. 18 so that rule changes can be passed before Christmas, he said.

The Legco meeting rule changes, involving 12 resolutions and 23 amendments, were proposed by the pro-establishment bloc in October in a bid to curb filibustering activities of the pan-democrats.

Opposition lawmakers are protesting the plan, arguing that the rule changes will help the government ram though controversial legislation such as a national security law.

When the debate began on Thursday last week, it was stalled by opposition lawmakers who resorted to multiple actions, including multiple roll calls and sit-in protests.

As Legco has arranged two-day meetings, on Wednesday and Thursday, this week for the debate to continue, Leung said he will demand additional meetings on Friday, Saturday and even Monday from 9 am to 8 pm if he has to in case democrats resort to more delaying tactics.

Legco Secretariat said on Monday that its survey showed 39 lawmakers agreed with such arrangement.

If that happens, the meetings of the Panel on Transport and the House Committee set for Friday, and a special meeting of the Finance Committee and six other meetings that had earlier been scheduled for Dec. 18, will have to be postponed.

Leung said he will try to have the resolutions and amendments of the proposed changes completed before the meetings adjourn.

Asked if lawmakers would burn the midnight oil to have the meetings, and if the upcoming Monday is a deadline, Leung did not give a straight answer but said he will make a decision based on the prevailing situation.

Pointing out that lawmakers have not passed any bill in the current Legco session, Leung urged the members to do their jobs properly keeping in mind the interests of Hong Kong people.

The Legco chief denied that he is acting under pressure from Beijing’s Liaison Office here and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the central government.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun criticized Leung for aiming to force through the proposed changes, saying additional meetings should not be held recklessly.

Calling Leung’s meeting arrangement uncommon, lawmaker Charles Mok Nai-kwong, convenor of pan-democrats, said there is clearly some kind of political mission behind the move and that his camp unanimously condemns it.

Former Legco president Andrew Wong Wang-fat called on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to step forward and talk to both the pan-democrats and the pro-establishment camps and try to get the rival groups into resolving the current deadlock.

In related news, some people heeded calls from democrats and began to camp outside the Legco building Monday night to show their solidarity with the opposition and its views on the controversial Legco rule changes.

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Development chief dismisses talk of Lantau light rail plan

EJ Insight》
Development chief dismisses talk of Lantau light rail plan
Today, 14:20

Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun dismissed rumors that a light rail system will be built on Lantau Island, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

According to a media report, a government consultant has decided to focus its study on the feasibility of building a light rail route connecting Tung Chung and Tai O on Lantau Island, instead of building roads.

Reacting to the report, Wong said the Civil Engineering and Development Department did commission a consultancy study on how to further develop the island in July this year.

The consulting firm will study how to improve the island’s transportation system by looking at all sides of the issue and will not come up with its suggestions until 2019 at the earliest, Wong said.

As such, it is too early to say whether a light rail route will be built, he added.

Director of Civil Engineering and Development Lam Sai-hung said the study will focus on the island’s inward and outward connections, including land and sea-based systems.

The island’s transport needs and handling capacity will also be evaluated, Lam said.

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Don’t mess with Reg, pt 2

by biglychee / Today, 10:33

Today’s little amusement: columnist Simon Lee is suing lawmaker Regina Ip for defamation. This follows her claim that he conveyed a threat that Link Reit might ‘harass’ her party (presumably by evicting it from space at the landlord’s properties).

The story is now lost in the mists of time – but essentially Ip echoed commonly heard complaints about the Link’s property management practices, and Lee replied in some way. The latest development suggests that the strident lawmaker might have been careless with words when she accused Lee/Link of making a threat.

Those of us still suffering from tinnitus from Emily Lau’s performances in the Legislative Council many years ago will know that Regina would hardly be the first public figure in Hong Kong to exaggerate for effect. If she shoots from the hip in your direction, the calm and cool response would be to ignore her, or at most treat her allegation with mild (but of course strictly gender-neutral/non-ageist/etc) condescension.

Making a big issue over who said what looks petty and oversensitive. Taking legal action is possibly unwise because – to some shallow and cynical scumbags out there, unbelievable though it may seem – it raises the suspicion that you are in fact guilty and fooling no-one by overreacting.

Worst of all, however, is the risk to one’s own reputation: you could become The Man Who Took Regina Ip Seriously. I shudder at the very thought.

DRIVING THE MESSAGE HOME: Political Study for All

by Suzanne Pepper / Nov 30, 2017

The political scene in Hong Kong today, following President Xi’s 19th party congress confirmation of Beijing’s cross-border intentions, is reminiscent of events soon after the first big anti-Beijing protest march on July 1, 2003. That was when half-a-million people unexpectedly turned out to vent their anger over the government‘s proposed Article 23 national security legislation.  Article 23 of Hong Kong’s post-colonial Basic Law constitution stipulates that the Legislative Council must outlaw all acts of treason, secession, sedition, subversion, theft of state secrets, and foreign political interference.

The attempt was shelved after a few Legislative Councilors from the usually compliant pro-business Liberal Party lost their nerve and withdrew support for the government’s bill. Beijing officials by all later accounts were shocked at the size and anger of the July First crowd. Public celebrations afterward and a District Council election campaign kept the alarm bells ringing. Official decisions were made then that Hong Kong is still living with today in the form of previously undeclared restrictions on progress toward universal suffrage elections, while the Article 23 threat remains ever-present.

LOOKING BACK: The Guardians

At the time, in 2003, a favorite official refrain was “study the Basic Law.”  We have read it backwards and forwards, replied Hong Kong activists. We’re only demanding what we see written there. But what officials meant was: read it from our perspective, not yours.

In the midst of this standoff, several elderly gentlemen, collectively known as “Basic Law guardians” 【護法】, began arriving  from Beijing, in early 2004. They were all authorities on Hong Kong’s Basic Law and their message was based on the assumption that Hong Kong had not yet grasped the fundamentals: Beijing’s sovereignty, the Article 23 mandate, patriotic loyalty, and so on.

It was actually rather amusing to watch the guardians and read daily headlines proclaiming what was essentially the general public’s first encounter with a mainland-style city-wide political education campaign … complete with exemplary villains and long doctrinaire guides to correct political thinking. The guardians’ presentations were mainland-style for such occasions: stern, dogmatic, and angry when pestering reporters threw out unsolicited inconvenient questions.

A Beijing professor, Xiao Weiyun, arrived in January and set the tone with words that remain pertinent today. He said the Basic Law’s drafters had actually been thinking mid-21st century for a wholly elected Hong Kong government as the Basic Law promised. He also emphasized that it was for the central government to decide because “in one country with two systems, one country is prior and fundamental.” *

The public was the target because the public had rebelled against the national security legislation and persisted with their “power to the people” 【還政於民】slogan. The slogan itself was a violation of the whole concept of national sovereignty and the security required for its protection because power doesn’t belong to the people, explained the guardians. It belongs to Beijing. But the mainlanders had no power to enforce. Beijing abided by the Basic Law and did not intervene directly, so the public was free to do as it pleased.

Activists pushed back and the community as a whole essentially disregarded the guardians’ 2004 message. The result was Hong Kong’s Occupy rebellion a decade later, and the disillusionment that has grown as expectations for autonomy failed to materialize. They evolved instead from autonomy, to thoughts about self-determination, and on to independence.

Xi Jinping’s report to the 19th party congress is Beijing’s response to Hong Kong’s long season of dissent (Oct. 23 post).   Responding in turn, the concerned public is still pushing back. But everyone has more-or-less learned they can no longer ignore the implications. This subtle difference was reflected in a statement by Elsie Leung, a long-time member of Hong Kong’s patriotic community, who was Secretary for Justice in 2003.

She told an interviewer recently that society has moved on since then.   In 2003, she said, the public did not “understand” … now they do. She didn’t explain exactly what people now understand or what she meant by her use of the word. But like all such official statements that are now constantly pleading for “better understanding of the Basic Law,” what she actually seemed to be saying was: understand what we officials mean by what we are saying, accept it, and know there is no point in asking for anything more!

In any event, the Beijing officials who arrived to publicize President Xi’s new theoretical construct are behaving differently than their 2004 predecessors. This time it’s all much smoother. There have been no intemperate outbursts or condescending putdowns …  only measured, sternly worded declarations of facts that Hong Kongers are being told they should recognize as self-evident because they have no other choice.

There have been many official speeches to publicize its significance since the party congress ended in late October. The most important … in terms of speakers, messaging, and target audiences … were the presentations  by Beijing officials Li Fei 【李飛], Leng Rong 【冷溶 】,  and  the new head of Beijing’s representative Liaison Office here, Wang Zhimin 【王志民].  They and others have in effect been conducting another public political education exercise, with special emphasis targeting young people and Hong Kong government officials.


Li is well known here as the bearer of tidings that pro-democracy partisans do not want to hear. He heads the Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and is best remembered for arriving from Beijing on August 31, 2014, to deliver in person Beijing’s restrictive verdict on electoral reform.

The verdict and his stern-faced delivery provoked a furious response from activists on that day itself, resulting in the city-wide student strike a few weeks later, and the 79-day Occupy Movement street blockades that followed. “8.31” has since become the code word for all that is wrong about Beijing’s response to Hong Kong’s democracy movement.

This time he came to preside over a seminar, held on November 16, for invited guests at the Convention Center in Wan Chai.**  Additionally, his speech was transmitted by video link to secondary schools throughout the city. All were invited to join the excise but not ordered to do so. Only 50 of Hong Kong’s 500 secondary schools took up the government’s offer of televised transmission.

Li Fei reiterated the main points of Xi Jinping’s party congress report emphasizing what it means for Hong Kong. In particular, he sought to explain the apparent contradiction in Xi’s declaration that the central government would exercise “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong while permanently retaining the “one-country, two-systems” formula along with its old promises of “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” and a “high degree of autonomy.”  All this is to continue while Hong Kong is, in Xi’s words, melding and integrating to become part of the national economic development mainstream.

Li addressed this apparent contradiction directly. He explained it as a kind of division-of-labor. The central government will jointly govern Hong Kong along with its own local government, and Beijing will exercise direct control over important matters.   Local autonomy would be confined to local affairs and remain the responsibility of local officials, as delegated by Beijing.

Beijing has thus acknowledged, finally, what it means by “a high degree of autonomy.”  As a result, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region should be known henceforth as a semi-autonomous territory.  Since the conditions that authorize this design were all written into the Basic Law, as promulgated in 1990, it’s safe to assume this was Beijing’s intention all along … give or take a few contingencies.

Besides explaining this previouslyy unacknowledged evolution of Hong Kong’s status, Li Fei’s main concern was the lack of respect Hong Kongers and especially young people are displaying for China’s sovereignty and constitutional authority. They behave as though the Basic Law is an autonomous document in its own right, with authority deriving from the handover agreements negotiated between London and Beijing before 1997. In fact, the Basic Law’s authority derives solely from China’s national constitution, said Li, to which Hong Kong owes allegiance.

He was naturally dismissive of all the new talk about localism, self-determination and independence. He did not differentiate among them, lumped all together, and denounced these advocacies as slanderous and heretical. He also noted, ominously, that they are continuing to circulate due to the legal loophole deriving from Hong Kong’s continuing failure to implement Article 23 national security legislation.   He assumes that such examples of free speech will be outlawed once the Article 23 legislation is allowed to do what it was intended to do (Nov. 17: SCMP, Ming Pao, HKEconJournal, Wen Wei Po).

LENG RONG and WANG ZHIMIN: Hong Kong and National Development

Leng heads the Literature Research Office of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee and was the featured guest speaker at an exclusive gathering of Hong Kong government officials on November 23. Liaison Office Director Wang Zhimin also spoke at the meeting, which was closed-door and reportedly the first such high-level briefing by Beijing officials for Hong Kong government counterparts. Chief Executive Carrie Lam sat in the front row flanked by members of her Executive Council. Also in the audience were department heads, political appointees, and other ranking members of the Hong Kong governing establishment … 240 attendees in all.

Each person received a collection of study materials that included videos on China’s economic, political, and diplomatic progress from China’s state broadcaster CCTV; plus a copy of the Chinese constitution and a copy of Hong Kong’s Basic Law; a copy of President Xi’s report to the 19th party congress; and a transcript of the widely publicized speech by Wang Zhimin first delivered at the BOAO Youth Forum for Asia in Hong Kong, in early November. ***

Leng reportedly elaborated on the spirit of the 19th party congress and emphasized the importance of integrating Hong Kong’s development with that of the mainland. He noted the basic fact, known to all, that Hong Kong’s economic growth is dependent on the mainland. Hence President Xi and state leaders had concluded that Hong Kong officials should adapt accordingly and coordinate  future plans  with mainland development strategies.

Wang Zhimin reportedly reiterated the main points of his earlier lecture focusing on the younger generation. These points he has organized into six relationships that must be managed well … as all have not been, given especially the proclivity of Hong Kong activists to “misunderstand” China.

The six relationships: (1) between Beijing and Hong Kong; (2) Beijing’s comprehensive jurisdiction and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy; (3) one-country, two-systems; (4) the national constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law; (5) national development and that of Hong Kong;(6) differences between Hong Kongers and mainlanders in terms of thought and ideology (Nov. 24: SCMP, Ming Pao, HKEconJournal).

So if Hong Kongers still don’t get the 19th party congress message it won’t be for Beijing’s lack of trying. The problem with Beijing’s effort is that it’s still avoiding the main underlying reason for the “misunderstandings.”  In fact, Hong Kongers understand well enough.  That’s just the trouble.  It can probably be reduced to one simple principle: freedom of political expression.

When mainlanders are presented directly with the contradiction between Hong Kong and mainland ideas about this principle, and are reminded that Article 23 legislation will impact the simple intangibles that Hong Kongers value most: their freedom to read, write, speak, publish, demonstrate, and associate … mainlanders have no answer except to admit that yes, Article 23 legislation will affect that freedom.  Which is exactly why Beijing officials are so insistent that the legislation is essential to what they think the HK-mainland relationship should be.

* Ming Pao, Ta Kung Pao, both Jan. 17, 20, 2004; South China Morning Post, Jan. 17: quoted in S. Pepper, Keeping Democracy at Bay (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007/8), p. 372.


*** (English trans.); Wen Wei Po (Chinese), Nov. 3.

Posted by Suzanne Pepper on November 30, 2017