Impeachment motion fizzles

Updated: 2013-01-10 07:06

By Kahon Chan and Li Likui(HK Edition)

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 Impeachment motion fizzles

Let's Build Hong Kong, Let's Unite and Move Forward. Members of the Voice of Loving Hong Kong wave placards and shout slogans in support of Chief Executive CY Leung, who emerged unscathed from a failed attempt by opposition lawmakers to impeach him on Wednesday. Philippe Lopez / AFP

Lawmakers condemn move as serving narrow political interest, abusing constitutional power

The Legislative Council (LegCo) on Wednesday voted down an opposition bid to impeach Chief Executive (CE) Leung Chun-ying. The certain-to-fail motion drew a hail of criticism that fell on opposition legislators who were accused of deliberately distracting the government from its agenda of introducing measures to improve the quality of life in the city.

Amid heavy criticism from the pro-establishment camp, the motion was voted down by the LegCo by 37 to 27 later on Wednesday. The motion failed to win the functional constituencies, as 23 of the 32 members voted against it.

The impeachment motion was tabled by 27 opposition lawmakers. It accused the CE of dereliction of duty, charging that the CE's responses to questions about unauthorized building works (UBWs) on his properties were inadequate.

Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the impeachment move was "unnecessary", given two previous failures by the opposition to exploit the UBWs issue.

She stressed that in the face of opposition obstructionism, the CE has already rolled out major policies and measures in just over six months since his inauguration. Lam cited the freeze on the individual (cross border) travel scheme and special duty taxes for non-local home buyers.

"With less than a week before delivery of the first Policy Address since the CE assumed office, I think it is time to concentrate on policies," said Lam. "The people expect all sides to end the political strife and let the government work on pragmatic matters for the well-being of the people."

Her call was echoed outside the LegCo chamber by ordinary citizens.

A 61-year-old housewife, Kwok Mei-fong, made her debut appearance at a rally outside the assembly on Wednesday morning to show support for Leung. Kwok said she had no choice but to stand up after the opposition claimed to represent the views of everyone in Hong Kong.

"They can't represent me. What they are doing is really just abusing their rights and messing up on purpose," said Kwok, who believes Leung has a plan to work for the benefit of Hong Kong and that the new administration should be given time to allow further accomplishment.

Patrick Ko Tat-pun, convenor of the Voice of Loving Hong Kong, said the opposition has aimed to distract Leung from improving the quality of life of ordinary people in Hong Kong in order to damage his standing as Hong Kong's Chief Executive.

Ko, who said he had worked with the opposition in the early years, criticized "the people who now identified themselves as democratic". "These people no longer are genuinely democratic," Ko said. "Even if Leung had done anything wrong, the opposition could give him some advice, as he had promised openly several times that he would like to hear from the people."

Article 73(9) empowers the LegCo to impeach the Chief Executive through a three-step procedure if the legislative body charges the city's chief with serious breach of law or dereliction of duty.

If the Wednesday motion had passed, the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal would have been called upon to form a committee and find out if there was evidence to substantiate the charges. Based on the findings, the LegCo could pass a motion of impeachment if it won support of a two-thirds majority and then report the result to the Central People's Government for a final decision.

Since the opposition comprises only a minority of the chamber, no motion could pass without the support of other parties, which was precisely what happened on Wednesday.

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), retold the history of the LegCo's impeachment power and pointed out that there was never a consensus on the definition of "dereliction of duty".

But the opposition did not consult the LegCo Committee on Rules of Procedures before tabling the motion. Tam said that failure signaled that even the opposition knew its charges against the Chief Executive did not meet the threshold for impeachment stipulated in the Basic Law.

"We cannot randomly commence the procedure because of aggressive political allegations, which would reduce a solemn constitutional mechanism to a tool of political conflict," said Tam. "The people will condemn this action that pushes the dignity of LegCo aside to serve narrow political interests."

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee of the New People's Party also researched the precedents of impeachment in other countries to underline the risks of abusing the constitutional power. She said while the responses of the Chief Executive were flawed, impeachment was a disproportionately excessive response.

Many others raised concerns on the damage caused by the opposition's political attacks.

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung of the Economic Synergy said while the impeachment motion was not merited by evidence, the whole society has already paid a heavy price for being distracted from constructive policy-making.

Chan Kin-po, representing the insurance sector, warned that a continual obsession with political conflicts will drag Hong Kong behind in regional competition. He reiterated faith in the Buildings Department's impartial enforcement, adding that the city's chief "has been more insulted than any other regular citizen" for the UBWs.

Ip Kwok-him of DAB said not even the opposition are free from integrity problems, such as exaggerating the turnouts of the recent anti-government rally. "The people are tired of the political circus of the opposition camp. It should have an end," said Ip.

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(HK Edition 01/10/2013 page1)