Hongkongers should back move to impeach Leung

Albert Cheng says legislators are right to demand that Leung should go, given his evasive responses on his role in the illegal structures row

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 4:16am

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying finally responded to a request from the Legislative Council's house committee to face questions on illegal building structures at his Peak houses.

He sent a written reply through the Chief Executive's Office two weeks after receiving the Legco invitation. House committee chairman Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said a session would be fixed for next week.

On the surface, Leung seems open and responsive, but in fact he is trying to dodge a wave of attacks from the pan-democrats, who are trying to use the council's special powers and privileges to launch an investigation. Meanwhile, they are also planning to move a no-confidence motion against Leung and start impeachment proceedings.

Leung previously said the illegal structures had been dealt with. His comment was shocking. The Buildings Department recently inspected his homes and confirmed the existence of illegal structures in the basement before issuing a demolition notice.

In fact, with all the evidence presented so far, there is really no need for him to give a full account; he is guilty as charged. Legislators should therefore move to start impeachment proceedings.

If the illegal structures scandal had been exposed during the chief executive election, Leung's approval ratings would certainly have nosedived like those of his rival Henry Tang Ying-yen, who was also found to have had illegal work done to his Kowloon Tong mansion.

Leung is trying to hoodwink everyone into believing he is a man of integrity and is fit to be a chief executive. In fact, he is not. It's time for him to go.

The people of Hong Kong are tired of his word games and do not want to waste any more time listening to his excuses. So, there's no need to hold a question-and-answer session for him to clarify the case. At this stage, the crux of the matter is no longer the illegal building work, it's the bankruptcy of his integrity. In the eyes of Hongkongers, he is a lost cause. If he refuses to go quietly, the people will have to force him out of office.

That's why Leung has agreed to appear in Legco; he is trying to buy himself time. If he appears at the Legco session before the council rules on a no-confidence motion, it would give the pro-establishment camp a strong reason to block a Civic Party move to use Legco's powers and privileges to investigate him. His biggest defence now is that he needs time to explain himself and, before he does that, Legco shouldn't do anything.

It's all a delaying tactic. Leung fears being impeached and he is doing all he can to prevent it from happening.

Section 9 of Article 73 of the Basic Law sets out impeachment proceedings. It says that if a motion initiated jointly by a quarter of all Legco members charges the chief executive with a serious breach of the law or dereliction of duty, and if he or she refuses to resign, then the council may, after passing a motion for investigation, give a mandate to the chief justice to form and chair an independent investigation committee. The committee can then report its findings to the council. If there is enough evidence to substantiate charges, Legco may pass a motion of impeachment by a two-thirds majority and report it to Beijing for a decision.

Simply put, the impeachment process has to overcome a series of hurdles - a joint motion signed by 18 legislators, an investigation by a committee chaired by the chief justice and a ruling by Beijing.

After veteran democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming said he would help draft the impeachment motion, most of the pan-democrats were suddenly willing to support the move. The Democratic Party has given its support; the Civic Party is willing to give legal support to Lee.

I do not expect the impeachment process to be successful but, still, it will have a colossal political and social impact and certainly make international headlines.

Another big worry for Leung must be the unmanageable pro-establishment camp that includes the Liberal Party, the New People's Party and individual members who do not always play in time to his conducting baton.

If the pro-government camp can't be relied on, there may be a chance for the impeachment process to advance to the stage of being investigated by the independent committee, which would touch on the sensitive no-go zone of the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers.

No matter the outcome, it will have an enormous impact.

Hongkongers can see through Leung and his intentions. He can no longer manipulate public opinion with his cheap tactics of deception and half-truths. The whole of Hong Kong should band together and support the impeachment process. We should fire the first salvo by taking part in this Sunday's anti-Leung rally.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. [email protected]