In a bid to improve relations between the government and the legislature, Legco chief Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen had proposed earlier that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should increase the number of Q&A sessions between her and lawmakers.
Recently, Leung has also suggested that the period of prior notification for Legco members to submit their oral and written questions be shortened substantially so that lawmakers can have a quicker response from government officials to urgent or sudden public issues.
Under current arrangements, if lawmakers want to raise an oral or written question at the Legco general meeting on Wednesdays, they have to submit a draft of their question at least seven working days in advance in order to allow the Legco secretariat to arrange a response.
However, over the years many lawmakers, particularly the pan-democratic ones, have complained about the length of that advance notification period. They argue that many sudden social issues often develop very rapidly, and by the time they are scheduled to be taken up in Legco they may no longer be topical or up-to-date.
Andrew Leung suggested that the advance notification period be shortened to three working days. It means that once approved by the Legco Committee on Rules of Procedure, lawmakers will only have to submit the draft of their question no later than Friday, and government officials will be answering their question at the Legco meeting the following Wednesday.
According to government sources, Leung’s suggestions have met with favorable response from Lam, as she is keen to improve ties with the legislature, and as she also believes her cabinet members should respond to social issues and address lawmakers’ concerns more quickly and efficiently.
It is said that the pan-democrats are also very much in favor of the idea.
However, quite surprisingly, the suggestion has got only a lukewarm response from the pro-establishment camp. So far only the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has given positive feedback to the idea, while the New People’s Party, the Business and Professionals Alliance of Hong Kong and the Federation of Trade Unions have said they prefer to maintain the existing arrangements.
As to why the pro-establishment camp is not so keen on the idea, it is said that some senior civil servants have told pro-establishment lawmakers in private that they have serious reservations about shortening that advance notification period, because if implemented, they will have to work during weekends to prepare for the answers to lawmakers’ questions.
Besides, most pro-establishment lawmakers also saw no compelling reason or substantial justification for changing the existing arrangements.
As such, given the reservations from both civil servants and the pro-Beijing camp, it appears the Lam and Leung joint initiative to improve relations between the administration and Legco is likely to go up in smoke.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 21
Translation by Alan Lee
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