Motion to impeach Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying over intervention in UGL probe defeated after nine-hour debate
A political storm erupted last month after Leung Chun-ying admitted he asked lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding to amend document relating to probe into HK$50 million payment from Australian engineering firm UGL
A motion to begin impeachment proceedings against Hong Kong’s outgoing leader Leung Chun-ying for intervening in a legislative probe into his past business dealings was defeated by lawmakers on Thursday.
After a nine-hour debate that started on Wednesday, 28 lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp voted in support of the motion, while 34 lawmakers from the pro-establishment camp opposed it.
The motion was initiated by 28 pan-democratic lawmakers last month and tabled by Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu on Wednesday.
It was revealed in 2014 that Leung, whose five-year term as chief executive ends on June 30, had made a non-compete, non-poach deal with Australian engineering firm UGL, which in 2011 purchased DTZ, an insolvent property firm of which he was a director.
As part of the agreement, Leung received HK$50 million from UGL after his election as chief executive in 2012 but did not declare it to his cabinet.
The Legislative Council launched a probe last year to look into the payment, and a political storm erupted earlier last month after Leung admitted he secretly asked pro-establishment lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding to amend a document on the direction of the investigation.
The pan-democrats charged that Leung was in contempt of the Legislative Council by improperly intervening with its affairs in dereliction of his constitutional duty.
But Chow’s party colleague, Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, accused the pan-democrats of launching another political attack on Leung.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting countered on Thursday that he was disappointed with Lee and her allies’ “fallacies”.
“In 2006, Chinese vice-president Zeng Qinghong had urged the DAB to up its game, but in this incident, even [some pro-Beijing figures] had criticised it for being incapable,” Lam said.
Localist lawmaker Lau Siu-lai also said the motion was justified.
“We must send a clear message to the executive branch … that we will not accept any interference,” Lau said.
Non-affiliated pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu hit back, saying that while he did not agree with Leung and Chow’s behind-the-scenes engagements, it was more problematic for the pan-democrats to accuse the chief executive of contempt “without any legal ground”.
In a reference to the 2014 Occupy protests, he said the pan-democrats “must either let it go … or if you are that aggressive, you could organise another Occupy, or even a revolution, only then could you ignore the law and hail the use of force”.
Concluding the debate, Leung’s top minister, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said the pan-democrats’ accusations were unfounded.
“I urge Legco to set aside political strife and focus on our society’s well-being,” he said.
Had the impeachment motion passed, it would have triggered an inquiry headed by the city’s top judge. If such an inquiry found sufficient evidence to impeach the chief executive and the motion were passed by a two-thirds legislative majority, Beijing would have had to decide whether to unseat Hong Kong’s leader.
Leung’s political opponents previously tried to impeach him after revelations emerged of unauthorised structures at his home on The Peak. The motion was voted down in January 2013.
After the vote on the motion to impeach Leung, pan-democrat lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching tabled a separate motion to censure Chow. An internal probe is to be launched, and if the motion is passed again by a two-thirds majority after the investigation, Chow would be disqualified.