Long Hair impeachment bid rests on Civic Party

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am

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The Civic Party could decide the outcome of a lawmakers' vote, expected tomorrow, on whether 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung can keep his legislator's seat after he was given a two-month jail sentence.

A lawmaker jailed for more than one month can be stripped of his seat if an impeachment motion is passed by a two-thirds majority in the Legislative Council. Of the 60 lawmakers, at least 16 - mostly pan-democrats - have said they would not back a motion of impeachment.

This gives the Civic Party's five lawmakers the potential clout to save Leung's job. Leung has been granted bail, pending appeal, after his conviction for disrupting a public forum on scrapping Legco by-elections.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) has written to the Legco secretariat to urge a discussion at tomorrow's house committee meeting on whether to impeach Leung. Any lawmaker can initiate an impeachment vote during the meeting.

The Civic Party said it would give the matter careful consideration as soon as possible. DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said: 'We have had a similar case before, and at that time the house committee said it was a must to initiate the [impeachment] mechanism according to the Basic Law.'

Tam was referring to Chim Pui-chung, a financial services lawmaker who was disqualified as a legislator after being jailed for forgery in 1998. He was voted back into Legco in 2004.

Chim supports Leung's impeachment, saying all lawmakers should be treated fairly. If the DAB did not raise the motion, he would do so, he said yesterday. 'I would do so because of Legco's regulation, not because I want to point to anybody.'

Leung said public opinion would decide whether he should be impeached, and he would not beg for leniency. 'Some lawmakers even said there was no need to investigate the conflict of interest of Chief Executive [Donald Tsang Yam-kuen] or to impeach him. Now they want to impeach me just because I was sentenced by a magistrate,' he said.

He said he would first apply for a review of his sentence. If that failed, he would apply for a speedy appeal.

Wong Kwok-hing, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said his group would take legal advice before deciding how to proceed.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People's Party, said impeaching Leung would be meaningless because the legislature's term ended in July.

The Democratic Party and Labour Party oppose impeachment. Acting Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said: 'As the judge said, lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung has no personal interest in this incident, so we do not think we should vote to strip off his duty as a legislator in the Legco meeting.'

Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said voters should decide on Leung's future as a lawmaker. 'We think it is unreasonable and inappropriate to strip off his seat,' he said.

House committee chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee, of the Liberal Party, said she would not personally initiate impeachment. But if members of the committee agreed, she would raise it on their behalf.

Meanwhile, there was support for one of the four activists sentenced along with Leung, Daisy Chan Sin-ying of Chinese University's department of government and public administration.

University vice-chancellor Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu said he would write a letter of mitigation for her and ask alumni lawyers to offer help. Three of her teachers - political commentators Ma Ngok, Ivan Choy Chi-keung and writer Chow Po-chung - condemned Chan's three-week jail term, saying: 'We are proud of having a student who is brave to contend for social justice, not for her own interest.'