Lawmakers approve new powers to hold meetings online

Lawmakers on Wednesday passed two resolutions that gave them new powers to conduct high-level meetings online during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the new rules, legislators can hold virtual council meetings, as well as remote meetings for the Finance Committee and other committees, if the Legco president or a committee chairman thinks the pandemic is making it impossible to conduct any physical meetings.

Previously, lawmakers were only allowed to hold lower-level panel and subcommittee meetings virtually.

Lawmakers will be voting by a show of hands and only those who were at the virtual meetings could vote.

Meetings will be livestreamed on the Legco website and on its social media platform.

The new rules came into effect immediately and will stay until the end of this year.

Speaking at a Legco meeting, lawmaker Chan Siu-hung said he hopes the Legco Secretariat could ensure the internet stability of the meetings and guard against any cyber attacks.

House Committee chairwoman Starry Lee, who moved the resolutions, stressed that a virtual meeting will only be held when it’s absolutely necessary.

“Passing this resolution doesn’t mean that we will start to have remote meetings at once. As I said, this is just a contingency arrangement. As we all know, the pandemic can develop very rapidly. And this is just a contingency fallback,” she said.

She added that the Legco Secretariat will provide technical support for the new arrangement.

Architectural sector lawmaker, Tony Tse, and catering representative, Tommy Cheung, meanwhile, said the new rules should apply to other emergency situations like social unrest as well.