Successful amendment of rules to eliminate filibusters after re-election as Chairman of the Finance Committee
During the past four-year term, I have repeatedly been re-elected as the chairman of the Legislature’s Finance Committee. Faced with economic and political challenges in Hong Kong, my responsibilities as the chairman are heavy indeed. In the past four years, the Finance Committee has handled a large number of items on its agenda, having examined more than 200 items approving funds of HK$800 billion. My most memorable work dates back to 2017 when I proposed amendments to the “Finance Committee Procedure” to reduce the scope for filibustering. At that time, as affected by filibustering, the committee was not able to function, a large number of items seeking funding could not be approved. As the chairman, I understood that if I ignored the problem, the society would be severely affected. After much effort from all parties, in October 2017, I issued two “chairman directives”. Later in March 2018, I approved two items of amendment to the Finance Committee Procedure raised by legislator Martin Liao Cheung-kong, thus successfully reduced the scope for filibustering and allowing the committee to get back on track.
Last year, opposition legislators used filibustering to prevent the election of the chairman for the House Committee to cease its operation aiming to stop passage of the national anthem bill. Opposition legislator Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, who was presiding over the election of the chairman, permitted the opposition camp to keep discussing matters unrelated to the election. As such, an election procedure that would normally take about 10 minutes to complete resulted in 17 meetings being held over 7 months and still a chairman could not be elected. Finally, after seeking independent legal advice, Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen decided to use powers granted in the Rules of Procedure to appoint the chairman of Finance Committee, myself, to preside over the election of the chairman of the House Committee. This was a political hot potato, but in order to get Legco running normally again, I was duty bound to accept the appointment. The election of the chairman was held on 18 May 2020. That day the opposition camp made repeated attempts to charge the podium resulting in chaos in the meeting room. In the end, I used one hour to complete the election in which Starry Lee Wai-king was elected chairman of the House Committee. Business in Legco could finally get back to normal.
Four years ago, I started posting comments every week on my Facebook page (陳健波—波哥) to share my thoughts and views with people. I hope to bring in proactive, peaceful and rational messages in present-day society filled with fallacies. Out of my surprise, my video clips became very popular. Presently I have nearly 80,000 followers on my Facebook page. My Youtube channel (陳健波.波哥) has nearly 40,000 subscribers, and many of my videos have up to 200,000 clicks, my videos have reached 11.5 million views. I am very encouraged by such achievements on social media.
International prices for crude oil have fallen from a high in 2014 by more than half. However in the same period, petrol prices in Hong Kong have not fallen but have risen inexorably, even becoming the highest in the world. In January 2020 during a Legco session, I questioned this and demanded the government to control petrol prices to reduce the burden on people’s livelihood. The government said it would not intervene in the market and would only push for competition in the market. I am of the opinion that the non-interventionist stance of the government on everything is no longer up to date. I will continue to keep an eye on the problem of high petrol prices.
《The Railway Development Strategy 2014 proposed construction of the South Island Line (West) section but up till now nothing has come of it. Many residents have told me that as the west extension is complementary to the redevelopment of Wah Fu Estate, if it is not completed in time, it could cause delays in the redevelopment of the estate. Moreover with the government developing phase 5 of Cyberport, road traffic in the area is expected to increase. If the extension line is not built, local residents will have to suffer from traffic congestion. In April 2019 I asked the Chief Executive to follow up on this matter and later in June I also gave my views to the Secretary for Transport and Housing. Now I have learned that the government has already asked the MTRC to submit a proposal for the South Island Line (West).
During the past four years, I have been concerned with the problem of population ageing. Recently I have noticed that problems are gradually appearing. I have given my views to the government at every opportunity asking authorities to improve healthcare, retirement protection and elderly services. In addition, I also encouraged the insurance sector to make a contribution to the issue, such as looking into insurance covering cross-border elderly services, developing superior residential care homes, and improving the attractiveness of annuity plans. At the same time I will pressure the government to use insurance models to solve problems related to ageing.
Since the signing of the Framework Agreement for the Greater Bay Area in 2017, I have been involved in the work to promote the development of the scheme. Apart from calling for the insurance sector to enter the Greater Bay Area, I also sought to expand opportunities for development for Hong Kong people there, such as granting of mainland resident status, and assisting Hong Kong residents to work, live and retire in the Greater Bay Area.
Since a trade war started between China and the US in 2018, the Hong Kong economy has been affected adversely. I have repeatedly told the Chief Executive and Financial Secretary that the government must work on contingency plans. This includes setting aside sufficient reserves so that when a crisis strikes, the government could immediately extend assistance to small and medium enterprises and grassroots residents.
It is undisputed that Hong Kong’s competitiveness is steadily falling. In Legco meetings, I have raised this question many times. In 2019, I again raised the issue with the Financial Secretary, saying that if Hong Kong does not improve its economic foundation and competitiveness, its future is worrying. I made many proposals to solve the problem, and some of them were adopted by the government.
The problem of housing has beset Hong Kong for decades with some studies even showing that housing is the root cause of most social problems. During my term of office, I have repeatedly urged the government to increase land supply and boost the proportion of public housing, to which the government has responded positively. In 2019, I again proposed to the Chief Executive to revamp its housing policy to develop a Singapore style public housing model as the policy objective, and set out a concrete route, timetable and promotion strategy to educate residents about it.