The Legislative Council has rejected a motion citing the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance (P&P) to investigate the excessive lead in drinking water scandal.

Although the motion received 16 yes and 13 no votes in the geographical constituency, it was rejected as it did not pass in the functional constituency, receiving nine yes and 23 no votes.

Ahead of the vote in LegCo, lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan – who put forward the motion with Gary Fan Kwok-wai – said that citing the ordinance “was not aimed at making [officials of the related departments] lose their jobs.” She said the blame did not fall on individuals, but on a flawed system. The motion was supported by the pan-democrats.

Lawmakers Gary Fan and Cyd Ho.
Lawmakers Gary Fan and Cyd Ho. File and Stand News.

Pro-Beijing camp rejection

However lawmaker Lam Tai-fai, a member of the pro-Beijing camp who opposed the motion, said: “We should first understand deeply the target, progress and role of the three committees set up by the government, before deciding if LegCo should set up another committee.”

“If we do not know enough, we may easily make unwise decisions and, in the end, we cannot help the people,” he added.

The result of the vote.
The results of the vote. Photo: Stand News.

Government response

In response, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said that, “I believe the investigation by the special commission will be objective, fair, comprehensive, detailed and independent. The responsibilities [of different parties] could be revealed in the process.”

“The report by the special commission will be an important and credible document. Before its investigation ends, there is no urgent need to form another committee,” Chan added.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said that the pan-democrats “politicised the incident… exaggerated the problem and made unreasonable requests.”

She said that the civil service did not neglect their duties.

The government said it will continue its work to install water filters in 70 public and directly funded schools. It said installations have already been completed in 34 schools as of Thursday.

The punished building contractors.
The punished building contractors. Photo: Flickr.

Questions on accountability

It was not the first time pan-democrats tried to cite P&P to investigate the lead water scandal. On July 22, another attempt was rejected.

The lead water contamination issue was first brought to light by the Democratic Party in July, after which 11 public housing estates and various schools across Hong Kong were found with excessive lead content in their water supplies.

In October, the HA announced that it will be punishing the four contractors involved in the construction of the housing estates. However, a HA review committee report showing interim findings on the lead water scare has been criticised for failing to touch on issues of accountability and penalties.

Last week, the government decided to check water samples at all public housing estates, three months after the first case of lead water contamination was uncovered.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.