How the Democratic Party Approved the Funding for the Espress Rail Link Hong Kong Section 10 Years Ago

How the Democratic Party Approved the Funding for the Espress Rail Link Hong Kong Section 10 Years Ago

How the Democratic Party Approved the FUNDING for the eXPRESS rAIL lINK hONG koNG sECTION 10 YEARS AGO

The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong (GSHK) Express Rail Link, an infrastructure built to enable further colonialization of Hong Kong by China, also brings destruction to Hong Kong’s constitutional rule, public funding, city planning, population policies, agriculture, public administration, and trade. Yet back in 2010, the appropriation bill for a railway that would bring comprehensive damages against Hong Kong interests was approved only after 3 days of deliberation. That’s easier than borrowing money from the bank.

The chairperson for LegCo’s Finance Committee proclaimed that the motion must be approved before the January 16 deadline, and that the meeting would not be extended. At the same time, LegCo members’ speaking time was reduced from 4 minutes per person to 3, and then to 2 minutes in the end. Over 30 motions were proposed by LegCo members from the League of Social Democrats, but were all rejected.

The then chairperson of the Finance Committee had set a voting deadline, limited legislators’ ability to speak, and denied their submission for further revisions to the bill. [1] Even Regina Ip, the current chairperson of the Express Rail Link (Co-Location) Bill Committee, never set a deadline for putting bill to the vote (as of May 9, 2018). It looks like the way they did things back in 2010 was more aggressive than that in 2018.

Rather than some traditional pro-establishment hotshot, that chairperson in 2010 was none other than Emily Lau from the Democratic Party. It was Emily Lau who had cut short a filibuster to allow an appropriation bill worth $69.9 billion Hong Kong dollars to be passed. The next day, Apple Daily tried to cover it up by resorting to sophistry in defence of the Pan-Democrats, in order to keep their supporters onside. Despite Emily Lau’s arbitrariness in forcing the vote and her haste to approve the detrimental GSHK Express Rail Link project, Apple Daily had the gall to come up with this headline: “Emily Lau caught in the middle for maintaining her impartiality”. [2]

At the same time, the Pan-Democrats gave up raising further questions as a way to accommodate the deadline set by Lau. According to news reports, the Pan-Democrats held a morning meeting in on the day the voting was due to take place, during which they unanimously agreed that “there were fewer and fewer questions left to ask”. As a result, they decided that they would be ready to vote once they finished asking all the remaining questions they had. The next day, Apple Daily once again tried to explain this away for the Pan-Democrats with the headline: “Facing inevitable defeat, Pan-Democrats helplessly give up filibuster” [3], as if the Pan-Democrats deserved everyone’s sympathy.

“There were fewer and fewer questions left to ask”? There was a protest against the building of the railway outside the Legislative Council at the time, where various public and professional interest groups as well as the average citizens present at the protest were coming up with questions non-stop and emailing them to the Pan-Democrat councillors within, giving them plenty of ammunition to do battle. According to Tse Koon Dong, one of the organizers of the protest, the protesters prepared a myriad of questions, none of which was used by Pan-Democrat councillors. Pan-Democrats also never made a concerted effort to speak up [4].

It looks like the Pan-Democrats were straddling both sides: the Pan-Democrat chairperson of the committee cut short a filibuster, while the others seated as legislative councillors remarked: “That’s fine. I’ll see myself out.” Apple Daily even quoted the words of these Pan-Democrat councillors as saying, “Despite the fact that the truth was on our side, the Pro-Establishment factions already more than 30 votes on hand, so the bill was going to be passed regardless [of whether we made the effort to oppose it or not].” [3]

The Pan-Democrats kept up with their game of legislative subterfuge, pretending to fight against autocracy while making sure that they would lose the vote right on schedule. Then comes Apple Daily as the peacemaker, painting a picture of how helpless and aggrieved the Pan-Democrats were. The more Hong Kongers are exposed to this storyline, the more they feel that they can only acquiesce and sigh about the current state of affairs, blaming the Functional Constituencies for “being in the way of Pan-Democrats who couldn’t fight back despite their best effort and intention”, while continuing to vote for the Pan-Democrats with tears in their eyes. Oh alas, poor us!

The lowly citizens continue to vote for the Pan-Democrats in regretful tears, while the Pan-Democrats continue to screw their constituents over with a smile on their faces. So you think the Pan-Democrats really felt that powerless when the GSHK Express Rail Appropriation Bill passed through LegCo? On June 4, 2008, the Public Works Committee held a meeting to approve the preliminary research funding for the design and site investigation of the Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link, for a sum of over 2 billion. The funding covered the design and planning for the West Kowloon Terminus, research for the route the railway would take, and even the approval for using Chinese-made trains! At the time, the then Chief Executive Donald Tsang made the announcement in China that he would overthrow an earlier resolution by the Executive Council, as he had decided to give up on the idea of having the Express Rail share the same track with West Rail and would instead push for a dedicated track for the Express Rail. This implies that Chinese-made high-speed rail carriages would be procured. Yet all the legislative councillors present at the meeting accepted all the terms without question or objection.

In the end, the minutes of the meeting, during which a $2 billion bill was passed without a hitch, was only 6 pages long. The only councillor who opposed the funding was Albert Chan Wai Yip from the League of Social Democrats. Those in support of the appropriation bill, aside from those in the Pro-Establishment camp, included Alan Leong from the Civic Party and Andrew Cheng from the Democratic Party. Andrew Cheng, during his speech, made it clear: “The Democratic Party supports the construction of the Express Rail Link”.

Another person also voted in favour of it, and that was Emily Lau.

“Emily Lau assessed that voting for the high-speed rail project could happen by extending yesterday’s Finance Committee meeting for 3 additional sessions. She said that she had no plan to further extend the meeting”, “Not Being Able to Please Both Sides, Emily Lau Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, Apple Daily, January 10, 2010.
“Emily Lau caught in the middle for maintaining her impartiality”, Apple Daily, January 17, 2010.
“Facing inevitable defeat, Pan-Democrats helplessly gives up filibuster”, Apple Daily, January 1, 2010.
“The history behind the fight against the Express Rail … Postscript for the 16th January Anti-Express Rail Rally”,, January 17, 2010.
Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council - Minutes of the 14th meeting, LC Paper No. PWSC123/07-08, June 4, 2008.

(Editor’s Note: This article was published in the 58th printed edition of Passion Times. Please support us by subscribing to our printed newspaper: