Legco to fast track fugitive bill debate

Top News | Phoenix Un 12 Jun 2019

The Legislative Council will fast-track discussion of the fugitive law amendment bill and put it to a final vote next Thursday, according to council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.

This comes with 61 hours spread over seven days set aside for lawmakers to discuss the extradition bill, Leung revealed in a briefing yesterday.

Leung also met with pro-establishment legislators yesterday to discuss the process after pan-democrats boycotted the meeting.

Citing Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu's call for swift legislation and past decisions in the Court of Final Appeal on how a legislative president can end debates at any time, Leung said he decided to reserve 61 hours from the resumption of the bill's second reading to the end of the third reading.

Besides the routine Wednesday and Thursday meetings, Leung added, he will add extra hours for discussions on Friday, Monday and Tuesday.

When the council discussed a controversial bill on the co-location arrangement for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, Leung also set a deadline for the third reading. But back then he did not organize extra meetings outside regular ones.

"There are another four bills that should be handled before the summer break as well as a government motion to appoint the High Court chief judge," Leung added in explaining the necessity to speed up the process.

Leung also said he would be flexible on time if legislators were making good use of it.

But he would take a hard line if the chamber was plunged into chaos or if many legislators resorted to filibustering.

On security arrangements at the legislative complex, Leung said a protest zone has been closed until further notice. Police will be stationed there and also carry out patrols.

And due to the heightened security risk, the scheduled chief executive's question and answer session at the beginning of today's legislative meeting has been canceled. In a note to lawmakers, Legco officials have also said there is a "high risk" that the complex will be stormed by protesters during upcoming meetings.

So security measures are being implemented to counter the threat.

If an amber alert is in effect all lawmakers and visitors to the legislative building will have to go through security screenings.

And no more than five members of staff of each legislator will be allowed to work in the complex.

Even as Leung was speaking, pan-democrat legislators Gary Fan Kwok-wai, Au Nok-hin and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick voiced their opposition to the quota of five.

At this point security personnel tried to prevent the legislators from disrupting the briefing, but that was soon abandoned as chaos developed.

Scores of lawmakers' assistants also protested outside the legislative building against the restriction on their numbers.

Yip Kin-keung,an assistant to legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, accused Leung of treating the staffers as fugitives.

And Democracy Camp Meetings convener Claudia Mo Man-ching condemned Leung's limit of 61 hours for talk, saying it was "1,000 percent an abuse of power."

Mo said that it also presents a dilemma for pan-democrats on how best to use the time.

"If we put up acts of resistance Leung can kick us out for misbehavior," she said.

"And if many of us are ordered to leave the chamber there could be very few legislators debating, and Leung might put the bill to a vote very quickly."

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