Hong Kong opposition lawmakers failed to win support for a motion to start an investigation of city Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying over claims he lied about illegal construction at his property.
The motion, introduced by 27 opposition lawmakers on the city’s 70-seat Legislative Council, was declared unsuccessful at about 10 p.m. yesterday after eight hours of debate. While the motion was approved by directly elected lawmakers, it was blocked by members chosen by trade and professional groups.
An uproar over illegal housing additions has sent Leung’s popularity falling and led opposition lawmakers to demand that he resign or face possible impeachment hearings. The motion’s defeat may offer respite to Leung, allowing him to focus on his first policy address on January 16 as the city’s economy slows.
“There are a lot of voices in the community saying that the government and the legislature should not waste valuable time on this issue,” Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief secretary, told lawmakers. “Instead, we should focus on important policy matters and livelihood issues.”
Leung presides over an economy estimated to see growth of 1.2 percent in 2012, its weakest annual expansion since the global financial crisis. Housing prices surged 23 percent in the year to October, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said Dec. 19, leading to concerns about affordability.
The motion said Leung intentionally gave “false statements and answers” to the legislature when asked about illegal structures found at his home in the city’s Peak district.
Leung has repeatedly apologized for being “negligent” in dealing with the unauthorized modifications, which include a trellis, a basement, and a cover over a parking space. The basement existed before he bought the property, he said in November.
“Leung Chun-ying has acted in dereliction of his constitutional duty,” Leung Kwok-hung, a lawmaker from the League of Social Democrats, said as he read out the motion. The lawmaker said the chief executive had “undermined the integrity” and betrayed people’s trust.
The former property surveyor survived a no-confidence motion on Dec. 12 over his handling of the controversy over the structures. China’s Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping gave his backing to Leung during a Beijing visit last month, saying his team had been “progressive” and “pragmatic” since taking over on July 1.
Leung’s main opponent in the Hong Kong leadership race last year, Henry Tang, saw his candidacy undone after admitting he knew that his wife had built a basement with a wine cellar and movie theater without government approval.
The Basic Law, Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, allows the legislature to pass a motion with two-third majority to impeach the chief executive should an investigation by the chief justice find evidence the law was broken. China’s government would then decide whether to carry out the impeachment.