Pro-Beijing lawmakers blocked a legislative motion to impeach Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Thursday afternoon following a fierce two-day debate.
Twenty-eight pro-democracy legislators voted in favour of the motion, but 34 pro-Beijing legislators voted against it.
The pro-democracy camp tabled the motion last month, after the chief executive was found to have edited a document belonging to pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow. Through the edits, Leung altered the scope of a Legislative Council committee investigation into himself over a controversial HK$50 million payout he received from Australian firm UGL. Chow was the vice-chairperson of the committee.
The ‘most serious case in Hong Kong history’
Prior to the vote, pro-democracy lawmakers criticised Leung’s actions over the course of his five-year tenure, and accused their pro-Beijing counterparts of protecting him.
Democratic Party legislator Lam Cheuk-ting, who began Thursday’s debate, called the editing scandal “the most serious, barbaric and evidence-filled case in Hong Kong history.”
“Such explicit intervention and damage towards the legislature’s work is unprecedented.”
But pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho hit back at the opposition camp, claiming that his pro-democracy colleagues were staging a political show as Leung only has three weeks left before he leaves office on July 1.
“If you’re tough enough, why don’t you stage another Occupy Central? Why don’t you start a revolution?” he told them.
Keeping a record
Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung admitted that the motion would not have many practical consequences for Leung. But he said that the impeachment motion must at least be recorded in history.
“I cannot change today – but what I see, and what I think, needs to be kept in the records,” said Cheung. He added that he has similarly been fighting for elderly and labour rights in the legislature in vain.
The argument was rejected by pro-Beijing lawmaker Martin Liao, who claimed it was disrespectful to use the legislature as a tool for creating history.
The impeachment vote took place at around 1pm after speeches from over a dozen lawmakers from both camps.
Despite some pro-Beijing lawmakers having criticised Leung on Wednesday, only the 28 pro-democracy lawmakers voted in favour of impeachment. A two-thirds majority of the 68-member legislature was needed to pass the motion.
On Thursday afternoon, the legislature will continue with a debate on a motion condemning Holden Chow for his role in the UGL document-editing scandal.