Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was poised to survive the third effort from the pan-democrats to try to oust him, as pro-establishment lawmakers look set to vote down an unprecedented motion to impeach Leung.
As the debate started, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam emphasised that since the pan-democrats had failed in their bids last month to pass a motion of no confidence and to launch a special inquiry against Leung, Wednesday’s motion was “unnecessary”.
“The precious time of the legislature should not be wasted on discussing [impeachment], but concentrated on more important policies and other livelihood issues instead,” Lam said.
She also warned that impeaching the head of a government was “an extraordinarily serious matter” that must be carefully dealt with.
The impeachment motion was tabled by League of Social Democrats’ lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, representing 27 pan-democrats.
The motion accuses CY Leung of dereliction of duty in his handling of the unauthorised structures on his properties.
Pro-democrats believe that Leung gave “false statements” in Legco last July when he said he had never knowingly concealed any illegal structures, but then four months later admitted he had sealed an unauthorised basement with a brick wall in 2011.
Though the pan-democrats seemed upbeat about the introduction of the impeachment motion, their move looked doomed from the start without the pro-establishment camp’s support in the 70-seat legislature.
Democratic Party’s Albert Ho Chun-yan, who was a candidate in last year’s chief executive election, described the pan-democrats’ endeavour as “a historical moment” because it was the first time since the 1997 handover that a motion of impeachment against a chief executive had been introduced in the legislature.
“Even if this motion was passed, it was only asking the chief justice of the Court of Final Appeal to form an independent committee and probe the matter,” Ho said.
“Maybe Leung could clear his name in such a probe,” he said. “But the pro-establishment lawmakers and Leung supporters don’t have the guts to let that happen – they just choose to hide the facts with a brick wall, just like Leung did with his illegal basement.”
Lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung countered that he would vote against the motion because it lacked rationale.
“[The motion] was only based on pan-democrats’ refusal to accept Leung’s explanation on the matter, and there is no evidence to prove that the chief executive made a false statement,” Tam said. “So the pan-democrats are only using the highest power of the legislature as a political tool.”
Outside the legislature, rival protesters traded barbs, and security personnel had to step in at one point when an angry pro-government supporter charged towards the rival group.