Lawmakers fear loss of privilege

Local | Maisy Mok 3 Jul 2020

Pro-democracy lawmakers questioned whether their legal privilege, by which they are not held accountable for comments made inside the Legislative Council, will continue following the enactment of the national security law.

Finance committee chairman Chan Kin-por said the national security law should be paramount, and the matter is worth looking into by the council's legal advisers.

The Council Front's Eddie Chu Hoi-dick questioned whether lawmakers' rights - stated in the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance - are still guaranteed under the new law.

He referred to section 3 of the ordinance, which states that freedom of speech and debate in the Legislative Council and committee proceedings are guaranteed, and section 4, which gives lawmakers immunity from civil or criminal proceedings for words spoken and written in the chamber.

Chu said he was concerned after 10 people were arrested for breaching the national security law on Wednesday, hours after the law came into effect.

"How can we continue meeting if legal advisers might say that under the national security law, you can be arrested anytime you make a speech and police will be waiting outside Legco," he added.

In response, Chan said the new law could override other Hong Kong legislation, and it is worth seeking legal advice for an explanation.

Pro-democracy lawmakers, including Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and Jeremy Tam Man-ho, questioned whether the new law overrides section 4 of the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance, which gives lawmakers immunity from civil or criminal proceedings for words spoken and written in the chamber.

Pro-establishment members, including the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's Steven Ho Chun-yin, disagreed with pan-democrats' concerns.

"You [pan-democrat lawmakers] are so scared of the national security law. Are you committing actions involving subversion?" said Ho.

Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Michael Luk Chung-hung said the national security law is "strict yet reasonable."

"There's nothing wrong in agreeing or disagreeing on suggestions even arguing is allowed, but I don't see how a normal debate [in Legco] can constitute the four crimes listed in the national security law," Luk said.

Chan decided to continue the meeting without answering the questions as the Legco legal team will "take a rather long time" to study the issue.

maisy.mok@singtaonewscorp.com

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