Motion on “Appropriation Bill 2020” (2020.05.07)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Chairman, today I have listened to the speeches by many Members of the constructive camp, including those having just delivered their speeches, namely Mrs Regina IP, Ms Elizabeth QUAT and the tall guy Mr Stephen HO. They made such excellent remarks. But I feel it is unfortunate that now many Hongkongers are unable to hear such voices. However, we still have to make the best efforts to communicate our stance and thoughts to people. All along, the Budget debate has often been used by the opposition camp and the “mutual destruction camp” to smear the pro-establishment camp and the constructive camp. Their tricks have succeeded for years. Despite our rather late start in striking back, it is a good move nonetheless. We can certainly refute their comments. In the past, we just refrained from speaking to refute them, and why did we not do so? Because we were afraid of wasting time. However, we have been fooled around by them for many years, and some negative perceptions have become deep-seated. Therefore, it is now very difficult for us to rectify the erroneous arguments and point out the correct concepts. Fortunately, there are still many righteous people in Hong Kong.

Chairman, first of all, I have to make it clear that I oppose the 52 amendments on the reduction of the estimated expenditure. The main reason is that such amendments are impossible to implement. As far as I am concerned, such 50-odd amendments are against all senses. I will give an example, which is Amendment No. 26 by Dr Fernando CHEUNG. It seeks to reduce the estimated expenditure by an amount equivalent to the annual operational expenses of the Hong Kong Police Force in 2020-2021. If the constructive camp has lost its sanity like the opposition camp and the “mutual destruction camp”, and votes for the amendment, the Hong Kong Police will not be paid their salaries. Then who will maintain law and order? Would all hell not break loose in Hong Kong? Just now, many Members have also explained the consequences, and why are all Honourable colleagues still so calm and at ease? Because all of them know it too well that the constructive camp will definitely vote against the amendments to stop such ludicrous situation from arising.

Nevertheless, I advise all citizens not to be so calm and at ease, for even more ludicrous situation may arise in the future. Why? Because the “mutual destruction camp” has held a press conference to announce its intention to vote down all bills and Budgets presented by the Government. And the “mutual destruction camp” absolutely can achieve its goal of “striving for 35+”, i.e. securing more than half of the seats of the Legislative Council. Nowadays, people are all accustomed to receiving information via mobile phone and fully believe the contents of social media. And social media provides an unlimited supply of information users like to read on the basis of their preferences, rendering them only able to hear views and comments from a single angle. Among such views and comments, many incite anger, hatred and fear in an organized and premeditated fashion, causing some people to believe and consider that they have been subjected to the persecution of an utterly unfair system, and thus vote irrationally and emotionally. I believe any result may emerge from people voting amid such an atmosphere. Therefore, if people still think that the “mutual destruction camp” is only verbally bluffing, they cannot be more wrong. I consider it very likely for such absurdity to happen. For this reason, the results of the Legislative Council election in September will determine, after getting through the “black-clad violence” for six months and the epidemic for another six months, whether Hong Kong will have to live through four more years in the abyss of upheaval. In this connection, people really have to think carefully and say no to “mutual destruction”.

My opposition to all amendments does not mean that I am very satisfied with the Government’s policy implementation. I do not wish to waste time to go into a detailed discussion. I only want to make one point and I am particularly concerned about education. The reason is that, as it is commonly known, recently a teacher of a school, in explaining the Opium War to the students, actually likened opium, which was a drug, to cigarettes, and that the United Kingdom waged a war so as to make people quit opium consumption and destroy opium. Such utterances could indeed be made, sending an uproar and shock waves across Hong Kong. I have received a lot of relevant messages. People are very worried that it was not a single incident, but only the tip of the iceberg and that similar cases are actually quite common. Now, parents are upset, as they have to fully monitor the teaching materials and do spot check on their children’s homework after returning home. Parents also have to discuss with their children their views on various incidents and the country, because parents are very afraid that their children will be “poisoned”. Buddy, why are parents nowadays so miserable? Why has parenting now fallen to such a low status? Making a bad influence on the next generation is the most shameless, abominable and despicable behaviour in the world, as well as the thing that distresses and disgusts parents the most. I know that Secretary Kevin YEUNG has seriously dealt with all suspected cases of questionable teaching materials. Sometimes, after I had passed the questionable teaching materials to him, he promptly gave me a reply, which showed that he was dealing with it.

Today, while the representative of the education sector in the Legislative Council, Mr IP Kin-yuen, is present, I wish to take this opportunity to say a few words to him. I ask teachers in Hong Kong to exercise self-discipline. Do not let the reputation of the majority of teachers who truly aspire to cultivate talents be tainted by a fraction of their unscrupulous counterparts. They often refer to the Police as “dirty cops” and suggest that they have assaulted riot participants. I agree that I have seen such ugly scenes on screen. As regards such individuals, society can deal with them in accordance with the law. But they cannot equate the assaults on others committed by such police officers with the conduct of more than 30 000 members of the entire Police Force. By the same token, I would not extend my aversion to the misbehaviour of a fraction of teachers to other teachers and their families. I would not do so, and neither do I hope that he and members of the education sector would do so. Do not exert a bad influence on the next generation of Hong Kong. As parents, we are truly, extremely worried.

I also want to make a response to the amendment by Mr CHU Hoi-dick regarding head 112, which seeks to reduce the estimated expenditure of the pay for the Secretary General and the Legal Adviser of the Legislative Council Secretariat. I have taken up the chairmanship of the Finance Committee (“FC”) for nearly five years. During this time, I have been working in harmony with the staff of the Secretariat and the Legal Adviser as a team. I have good knowledge of their ways of handling matters and thinking. I want to especially mention that, when I assumed the chairmanship of FC in 2015, as it was known to many, I checked and read all verbatim transcripts of the meetings of the previous term of FC, and raised close to 100 points of order to the Legal Adviser and the Secretariat. After we have spent some dozens hours on discussion, I am able to have a better understanding of the procedures and practices of FC. As a matter of fact, even the Legal Adviser had to check records and information to ascertain the way of handling in some situations. Moreover, in recent years, FC has been a key target of attack by the opposition camp. Therefore, over the years, I have had meetings for at least two or three hundred hours in total with the Legal Adviser and the Secretariat. For this reason, I consider that my contact and interaction with the staff of the Secretariat and the Legal Adviser are ample enough to allow me to pass fair comments.

The work of the Legislative Council Secretariat is to provide administrative, secretariat and research support, etc., for the Legislative Council. As per my observation, staff of the Secretariat and the Legal Adviser all conduct their work in strict adherence to the Rules of Procedure (“RoP”) of the Legislative Council. Every day, they do their work according to RoP. It is beyond any doubt. Well-versed in RoP, they have a clear understanding of the literal meaning of each provision, as well as the relevant proceedings. More importantly, they do not only look at the literal meanings of the text, but also understand the reasons behind the practices of the Legislative Council stipulated in RoP. If they are in doubt, they will check previous examples to find proof. I consider staff of the Secretariat and the Legal Adviser all committed to their duties. And they always stick to RoP and insist on not deviating from the rules in every task they undertake. I believe it is the tradition of the Legislative Council Secretariat. In my experience, if Members propose some practices or make suggestions that they consider inconsistent with RoP, they will raise their objection. Of course, the President makes the final decision. With such attitude, they safeguard the Legislative Council. Even a new Legislative Council is formed every four years, and Members come and go, the system of the Legislative Council can carry on over the years precisely by virtue of such parliamentary system, culture and traditions. Therefore, I consider staff of the Secretariat a band of righteous guardians of the system, and I applaud their work.

Frankly speaking, staff of the Secretariat and the Legal Adviser have carried out their jobs seriously following the traditions while upholding impartiality. As far as I am concerned, their work style is naturally more on the conservative and safe side. For example, as regards the filibuster during the election of the Chairman of the House Committee (“HC”) for this legislative session, the Secretariat and the Legal Adviser both considered the election of the chairman the first task. Honourable colleagues please note that they initially considered it a first task for the reason that, judging by the experience in the past several decades, the election of the chairman for a new session only required 15 minutes, until the filibuster scene appeared in this session.

I hope Honourable colleagues will pay attention to my remarks as follow. If they have read the press release by the President of the Legislative Council on this matter―I believe many have not read it―I will now tell you the gist. “As early as October last year, the Secretariat’s Legal Adviser had explained in detail the implications on the operation of HC pending the election of its chairman. The legal analysis made at the time was based on the ordinary course of events envisaged in HC”. As the Legal Adviser could not foresee that it would fail to elect its chairman in half a year’s time, “it is anticipated that HC could complete the election of chairman within a short time”.

“In summary, pending the election of a new chairman, while the incumbent HC Chairman should have all the usual powers to conduct the business of HC”. However, Honourable colleagues should note that “the exercise of such powers is subject to certain caveats and he/she should exercise caution as to whether to exercise the powers … In this regard, Senior Counsel’s advice is no different from that provided by the Secretariat earlier”. I hope all Honourable colleagues understand that the two pieces of advice are no different from each other. The Legal Adviser initially considered that it would only require 15 minutes for a chairman to be elected, and therefore the chairman election was the first order of business, otherwise the former chairman could permanently assume the chairmanship. That would be an undesirable scenario. However, in the face of hindrance, which delayed the election of the chairman, the matter has to be handled flexibly. Issues that might not warrant immediate attention may have to dealt with first. That is the whole story. Therefore, I think the current situation should not be interpreted as there are two different pieces of legal advice.

As clearly stated in the press release, the two pieces of legal advice are no different from each other, for they were given at different times. The Senior Counsel also considered that “[Mr Dennis KWOK] allowed HC members to have discussions on a number of issues and motions covering the security arrangements and their implementation in the [Legislative Council] Complex, matters under the purview of The Legislative Council Commission, as well as a number of non-binding motions. […] [I]t is difficult to see how such discussions could be relevant to the election of the HC chairman.” Honourable colleagues’ attention should be drawn to the last sentence: “The Secretariat has also expressed similar views to the presiding Member.” But did he take heed of it? God knows.

Of course, the HC Chairman can disregard the Secretariat’s views. I had also personally telephoned the clerk to HC and chided her for not telling the chairman the basic rules. For example, could there be no limit to speaking time? Many members spoke for 20 minutes each time and for multiple times. In that case, could the meeting ever end? It was impossible and was apparently a deviation from the usual practice. Even if the deviation was minor at the beginning, it would become a huge one as the situation persisted. The Secretariat stated that it had informed the presiding Member of such problems, but such advice was ignored. Therefore, as the presiding Member of HC made such decisions, he cannot shift the blame to the Secretariat. It is utterly unreasonable, and utterly unfair to the Secretariat. It will also destroy people’s trust in the Legislative Council.

Members should not easily chide the Secretariat. When the Secretariat gave advice different from theirs, they issued a joint condemnation. Why did they not sit down and discuss with the Secretariat so that both parties could present their legal grounds and exchange views? Why did they not do so? Why did they often send letters immediately to denounce the Secretariat, rather than lodging a judicial review? Because they regarded that as an opportunity for publicity and for bad-mouthing the Legislative Council. Such a move has continuously eroded the foundation of the Legislative Council, making people distrust the Council, “buddy”.

Therefore, I wish to say a few words to Hong Kong citizens. Quoting a line of well-known lyrics, “truth or falsehood is difficult to discern/how deceitful people’s faces are”, which I would rewrite as “truth or falsehood is difficult to discern/how deceitful politics is”. I hope people will truly discern what happened.

Given the time limit, I want to respond to the four crimes perpetrated by the Secretary General and the Legal Adviser as pointed out by Mr CHU Hoi-dick. Honourable colleagues all heard his accusations, the charges of which include irregularities they committed when handling the election of the President of the Legislative Council in 2016 and also when handling the election of chairman of the Bills Committee on amending the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, slacking when handling the procedure for the co-location arrangements, playing favouritism towards the pro-establishment camp, etc. He even mentioned FC. I just want to tell them: as they consider such matters so important, why did they not lodge a judicial review? There are many lawyers in the opposition camp and the “mutual destruction camp”. Why did they not do so? They only care about engaging in empty talks on irregularities. They should have rebutted law with law. And why did they not do so? Because they had no confidence, knowing that what they said was nothing but bragging.

As my speaking time is limited, if any Member twists or distorts my meaning later, I will definitely give a response. Accordingly, I shall stop here and respond later. Also, just now Mrs Regina IP has made sincere and well-intentioned remarks in response to Mr CHU Hoi-dick’s speech. Hong Kong citizens should have listened carefully. Mrs Regina IP’s speech is of good quality and well-founded, contrary to the bragging comments made by Mr CHU Hoi-dick. His accusations are sheer fiction and totally groundless (The buzzer sounded) … I hope all Honourable colleagues will understand that.

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