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Hong Kong Lawmakers Start Debate on Probe Into Leader Leung

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, has repeatedly apologized for being “negligent” in dealing with the unauthorized modifications. Photographer: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Opposition lawmakers introduced a motion today seeking a probe of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying over claims he lied about illegal construction at his property, stepping up pressure on the Chinese-backed leader.

The motion, introduced by 27 opposition lawmakers on the city’s 70-seat Legislative Council, would invoke constitutional powers to form a judge-led investigation into allegations that Leung gave false statements to the legislature over the construction.

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. While Leung’s opponents are unlikely to win support in the legislature, where they only hold a third of the seats, the campaign has detracted from his attempts to focus on the city’s economy.

“Leung Chun-ying has acted in dereliction of his constitutional duty,” Leung Kwok-hung, 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 motion claims Leung intentionally gave “false statements and answers” to the legislature when questioned about the illegal structures found at his house 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 room existed before he purchased the property, he said in November.

China Backing

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.

“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’s main opponent in the Hong Kong leadership race last year, Henry Tang, saw his candidacy undone after he admitted 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, if supported by a two-third majority, to impeach the chief executive should an investigation by the chief justice find evidence the law was broken. The Chinese government would then decide whether to carry out the impeachment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simon Lee in Hong Kong at slee936@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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