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Timothy Fok tops Legco no-show list again

South China Morning Post – 16 August 2010

As the Legislative Council heads into its last session before elections in September next year, its least active lawmakers have failed to show any sign of revival from their torpor.

Timothy Fok Tsun-ting remained the most reluctant lawmaker in the legislative year just ended. Fok, who has represented the sports, performing arts, culture and publications functional constituency since 1998, had the worst attendance and one of the worst voting records of the 60 lawmakers. While that echoes his previous record in analyses conducted by the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583announcementsnews) , his participation on some panels has shown further deterioration.

Fok topped the absentee list for full council meetings for the sixth consecutive year: he attended 22 of its 35 meetings, or 64 per cent, compared to the 96 per cent attendance average of Legco members.

The Legco session that ended on July 13 also marked the ninth year of his 13 as a lawmaker in which Fok had the worst attendance. He also missed or failed to vote in 122, or 65 per cent, of the 187 votes cast in full council meetings in the past year, compared with the average of 25.4 per cent.

The member who lodged the fewest votes was finance sector lawmaker David Li Kwok-po, who missed 90.3 per cent of votes.Medical sector representative Dr Leung Ka-lau was next, at 66.3 per cent.

Fok’s poor performance was consistent across chamber business. He had the lowest attendance on five of the nine major panels and committees he joined. He attended fewer than a third of the 32 meetings of the House Committee, on which all lawmakers except the Legco president sit – a slight deterioration on his performance the previous year.

Repeated attempts by the Post to contact Fok for comment failed. In response to the Post’s analysis of attendances in 2009 – when he was also bottom – he said attendance records were “too simple a tool to judge a lawmaker’s performance”.

While Fok’s average participation at meetings of the seven panels to which he belonged was 39 per cent – up from 33 per cent the previous year – he was among the worst three lawmakers in terms of attendance on all seven panels.

His average was improved slightly by better performance in attending meetings of the home affairs panel, the business of which corresponds most closely with that of his functional constituency. While last year the Post reported that Fok did not show up at a single meeting of the panel, this year he attended eight of its 15 meetings, or 53 per cent, bettering two lawmakers, People Power’s Wong Yuk-man (27 per cent) and pro-government lawmaker Philip Wong Yu-hong (40 per cent).

While it is unsurprising that lawmakers from functional constituencies tend to be less keen to attend meetings and vote on motions or bills than those from geographical constituencies, some directly elected lawmakers also have poor records.

Independent pan-democrat Leung Yiu-chung was either absent or did not press the voting button for 104 of the 197 votes, or 56 per cent – more than doubling the 25 per cent of votes he missed in the previous year.

Independent pan-democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo attended just 13 (or 36 per cent) of the 36 meetings of the Public Accounts Committee, the group that stirred heated debate by criticising government figures over 2009’s East Asian Games and directly subsidised schools. Cheng, a solicitor, said being a lawmaker was not his only job. “The [Public Accounts Committee] clashed with many of my other meetings.

“I will withdraw from it in the coming session,” he said. “And I do not only work for one job only… I may not seek re-election next year.”

The Civic Party’s Ronny Tong Ka-wah had the poorest record of attending meetings on Lehman Brothers minibonds issues. He turned up at just four of the 51 hearings of the Lehman Brothers minibond subcommittee, only surpassing in attendance the no-show of the medical sector’s Leung, who quit after four meetings.

Tong said he deliberately skipped the meetings because he thought the purpose of the hearings was to study the structure of the minibonds, not to hear complaints from the victims.

Leung was not available for comment.

Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said that while different lawmakers may have their reasons to skip Legco, “both functional and geographical lawmakers should work equally hard”.

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