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Hong Kong surgeon and lawmaker most absent for Legco committee meetings

Leung Ka-lau attended just 15pc of Finance Committee meetings, citing scheduling conflicts with his medical obligations and filibustering.

Lawmaker and surgeon, Leung Ka-lau. Photo: May Tse

Lawmaker and surgeon, Leung Ka-lau. Photo: May Tse

Medical sector representative Dr Leung Ka-lau attended just 15 per cent of the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee meetings last year, sparking concerns about whether he can strike a balance between his work as a doctor and a lawmaker. The surgeon and pro-establishment legislator also topped the no-show chart for Legco’s House Committee meetings, alongside Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan with a 34 per cent attendance rate. He was also the third least active member at regular Wednesday Legco meetings, attending 82 per cent of them.

The Post obtained Legco statistics which showed the attendance rates of all lawmakers at the three major bodies – the full council, the House Committee and the Finance Committee – in the legislative year that ended last week. Leung said he was usually busy meeting patients when he was absent, adding his sessions at Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po every Friday always overran, forcing him to skip House and Finance Committee meetings in the afternoon.

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But Leung, the only pro-establishment lawmaker who voted against the Beijing-inspired model for political reform in Hong Kong last month, said he had no plan to rearrange his schedule to boost his attendance in the coming year. “I believe my voters would understand me,” he said. “They know that the Finance Committee is not functioning normally right now … There weren’t that many Finance Committee meetings before.”

Several filibusters – usually initiated by radical pan-democrats – were staged in the Finance Committee last year to fight controversial government funding applications for initiatives such as landfill expansion and the creation of an innovation and technology bureau. Last week, 14 extra Finance Committee sessions were held ahead of the summer recess so lawmakers could scrutinise outstanding funding requests, including one for the new bureau. The filibusters also affected overall turnout in the Finance Committee. Only 45 per cent of lawmakers showed up at a meeting held on July 17. Indeed, no lawmakers – including committee chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan – managed to attend all sessions held over the past year.

Leung was not the only lawmaker who cited filibusters as the key reason to skip meetings. Outgoing lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah did the same. He came second last on the Finance Committee’s no-show list. “Requiring me to sit here all day to see lawmakers filibuster – sorry, I cannot do it,” said Tong.

The senior counsel and former Civic Party member, who attended 88 per cent of council meetings, also said he had spent most of his time last year looking for a way out for political reform and had therefore devoted less time to legislative matters. Meanwhile, rural power broker Lau Wong-fat, who was the least active Legco member in the previous session, continued to have a poor attendance record.

He attended 79 per cent of council meetings, slightly more than the Labour Party’s Peter Cheung Kwok-che, who was the least active member with an attendance rate of 74 per cent. However, Cheung took two months of leave from November after he was diagnosed with gastric malignant lymphoma.

Lau, the city’s oldest lawmaker at the age of 78, admitted it was his health that prompted him to skip meetings.

Meanwhile, pro-establishment lawmaker Chan Kin-por, representing the insurance constituency, had the best attendance record. He showed up at every full council and House Committee meeting and missed just two finance sessions. Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said lawmakers had a duty to attend meetings, and noted that it was a global trend to regard legislative work as a full-time job.

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