Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has praised his boss Leung Chun-ying for his accomplishments over the past five years, as lawmakers on Wednesday tabled a motion to impeach the chief executive.
“The chief executive has always been loyal to his post, such as implementing the Basic Law and defending the country’s sovereignty. There is no doubt about his determination to serve Hong Kong,” Cheung said at the legislature on Wednesday.
Cheung was addressing 28 lawmakers who tabled a motion to impeach Leung, who was found to have edited a document belonging to pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow in order to alter the scope of an investigation over a controversial HK$50 million payment Leung received from Australian firm UGL.
The scandal caused uproar, with critics slamming Leung and Chow for disregarding the principle of separation of powers. In response, Leung said he has the right to express his views as a subject of the probe.
On Wednesday, the chief secretary called the impeachment motion a “political tool.” He said the government “resolutely opposed” the motion and urged lawmakers to veto it.
He also gave a lengthy speech commending Leung. Listing a number of Basic Law provisions, Cheung said Leung is the leader of Hong Kong and has performed his duties in accordance with the law.
“He has made many accomplishments in areas such as poverty alleviation, elderly care, support for the underprivileged, housing, health care, public hygiene, technological innovation, education, sports, environmental protection and law and order.”
“I don’t understand how you could face your conscience when reading your speech,” IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said.
“How are Leung’s accomplishments that you mentioned relevant? We are discussing Leung’s personal conduct – it has nothing to do with his work performance, no matter how good it may be.”
Mok said he was disappointed at Cheung’s speech. “I also think that it is inappropriate for you – the chief secretary – to use your office hours to attend this meeting.”
“The chief secretary said Leung has done some good things,” Democratic Party lawmaker James To said. “Even if we assume it is true, does it mean he can then interfere in the legislature?”
He said Leung’s accomplishments will only be relevant as a mitigation plea if an investigation committee substantiates the charges against Leung and the legislature is to vote on his impeachment.
Only five pro-Beijing lawmakers spoke during Wednesday’s session. Holden Chow’s party leader Starry Lee said the pan-democrats were using the legislature to launch personal attacks.
“The opposition camp disregards the dignity of the legislature for their political gain,” she said, adding that Leung had the right to express his views.
But pro-Beijing lawmaker Abraham Shek said any form of interference is unacceptable. He said “anyone with common sense” in Leung’s position would not edit a lawmaker’s documents.
Under Article 73(9) of the Basic Law, the legislature may pass a motion to mandate the chief justice to form and chair an independent investigation if the chief executive is charged with serious breaches of the law and refuses to resign.
If the committee substantiates the charges, the legislature may pass a motion of impeachment by a two-thirds majority. The Chinese government will then make a decision.
The 28 lawmakers also tabled a motion condemning Holden Chow. A number of pro-Beijing lawmakers have stated their opposition to the proposal.
The motion debate continues on Thursday.