Shek calls it quits amid chair-fight fiasco

Top News | Phoenix Un 15 May 2019

The pan-democrats' proposal to hold a tripartite meeting was cold shouldered by the government, dampening hopes of a resolution to the deadlock over the fugitive law amendment.

Both the pro-democracy and pro-establishment camps had indicated willingness to join such a three-way meeting after a second session presided over by Abraham Shek Lai-him fell into chaos again yesterday.

But the government was reluctant to get involved. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said it was inappropriate for the government to meddle in legislative affairs.

"The argument is who should chair the bills committee," said Cheung. "It's an internal procedural issue for Legco, and it will be improper for the executive authorities to interfere with the internal procedural issue of the legislature."

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor earlier said she needed more time to look into the issue.

With the government's hesitation, the ball is now in the court of the Legislative Council's house committee, chaired by Starry Lee Wai-king, which should give further instructions on how to convene the next bills committee meeting.

Shek sent a letter to Lee, explaining to her the chaotic situation in the last two bills committee meetings.

"I said even if we go on and have another meeting, the result will be the same," Shek said. "I would like to seek further advice from the chairwoman."

While stopping short of saying he would not preside over the meeting for a third time, Shek indicated his frustration, saying he is not capable of going any further.

The pro-democracy camp said Lam was too narrow-minded if she considered the controversy to be a technical problem instead of a political crisis.

"It's almost the consensus of Legco members wishing to discuss with the chief executive the way forward on a political reconciliation meeting," said Democrat James To Kun-sun, most senior member of the Legislative Council.

Pan-democrat camp convener Claudia Mo Man-ching said it was embarrassing that Cheung reduced what had happened to a game of musical chairs: "They pretend it's just some factional fight in Legco. 'You guys fight to settle disputes on your own, and we will keep our hands off.' This is utterly pretentious."

She declared her side had won a small battle, and called on the chief executive to suspend the bill and engage in talks.

Fourteen of the 23 pan-democrats marched to the Chief Executive's Office and submitted a letter to Lam, urging her to join the tripartite meeting.

The convener of the pro-establishment camp, Martin Liao Cheung-kong, said he welcomed the tripartite talks.

"But we don't want to waste time, and I hope the other camp would choose representatives who can make a decision for them," he said.

Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said he would be willing to be mediate in any meetings to resolve the deadlock. There were confrontations in Legco yesterday and on Saturday after the house committee gave instructions to the bills committee to unseat Democrat To from his presiding position following his filibustering.

The two political camps ended up holding their own versions of the bills committee meeting - presided over by To and Shek.

The pro-democracy camp held its meeting 15 minutes earlier than the establishment camp yesterday. Latecomer Shek did not get close to the chairman's seat as he was blocked by pan-democrats. He left the meeting room after two minutes.

He returned to the room 10 minutes later, but found himself in a similarly chaotic situation. He quickly announced the start and end of the meeting within 18 seconds.

No lawmaker was injured yesterday, unlike during Saturday's meeting. But a cameraman was scratched by security staff who tried to stop reporters from boxing Shek in.

Editorial: Impasse stays in extradition scrum

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