Placards and bells: A glimpse inside Hong Kong's LegCo

By CGTN's John Goodrich

Hong Kong SAR's new chief executive Carrie Lam will take office on July 1 with high hopes and grand plans to shape the city's direction over the next five years.
But as CGTN Digital discovered while filming the first ever live stream inside the Legislative Council (LegCo) building on Friday morning, checks to her power sit within the postmodernist structure overlooking Victoria Harbour.
The new LegCo building, which became home to the 70 representatives in 2011, is a maze of stairs, escalators and elevators. Circular walkways jar with angular escalators, modernist art adorns walls and a succession of balconies offer a glimpse of other people’s business.
Flags fly outside the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong. /VCG Photo

Flags fly outside the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong. /VCG Photo

Glass flows amid steel and concrete as if to stress the need for such an institution to be transparent despite its complexity. This is no off-the-shelf office structure, but rather an architectural metaphor for the business that is conducted within it.
An enduring blockage encountered in parliaments across the world is the filibuster, a tactic used to delay the implementation of legislation. During a live interview with CGTN Digital, Holden Chow, one of the LegCo members, sighed with an exasperation out of keeping with his upbeat character.
"Right now in the Legislative Council we have a lot of filibustering going on," he said, looking over Hong Kong's harbor from his office's picture window. "Even with the very nice view, our work is affected by these filibusters. It's quite annoying, actually."
President's podium in the Chamber of Legislative Council Complex. /LegCo Photo

President's podium in the Chamber of Legislative Council Complex. /LegCo Photo

A gaggle of protesters was gathered in a designated area within the LegCo complex as we began to tour the building, voicing their concerns over delayed passing of a bill that would turn the key on construction of a 31.9 billion Hong Kong dollar (4.1 billion US dollar) sports complex at the site of the old Hong Kong airport — and this was the issue that was taking up Chow's day.
As we wound our way from the public lobby into the area restricted for media and LegCo workers, we passed the committee room where the project was being debated and explored an institution that has helped guide Hong Kong's development since 1843. Government policy requires the support of the LegCo members, and as the debate in the finance committee showed this is far from guaranteed.
The delays and obstruction over the sports scheme were clearly frustrating Chow. "It takes too long for any particular project. Everything that passes through the LegCo, right now it drags on for quite a long period of time."
Chow argued that the proposed facilities - held up over costing objections - would have great benefits for Hong Kong residents. He warned that a project that has been in the pipeline for 10 years could be delayed for a further decade unless approved that afternoon. 
Conference room of Legislative Council Complex. /LegCo Photo

Conference room of Legislative Council Complex. /LegCo Photo

As he reminisced about flying back to Hong Kong from his studies in London to be in his hometown on July 1, 1997, a bell tolled quietly but persistently in the background.
Torn between cutting short our chat and the need to cast his vote on the future of the sports complex, Chow persevered enthusiastically with the interview before assistant Ernest knocked and gave him a two-minute warning.
On his feet and bouncing for the door, we just had time to salvage the microphone and thank him before he darted down the corridor and back to the committee room to vote.
The interview and the live stream were over, and a few minutes later Chow had his wish - legislators in the finance committee approved the sports complex after a six-hour debate. In a single morning, we had a taste both of what LegCo business is all about and the challenges that may lie in wait for Carrie Lam's agenda.  

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