A motion proposed by the democrats to impeach Chief Executive Carrie Lam has been rejected at the legislature owing to opposition by the pro-Beijing camp.

Twenty-five pro-democracy lawmakers put forward a motion to form an independent investigative committee to examine Lam’s conduct for any serious breach of the law and dereliction of duty. 26 voted “yes” and 36 voted “no.”

The motion – as tabled under Article 73(9) of the Basic Law – was proposed in June, but the legislature was stormed by protesters on July 1 and entered summer break early. The council resumed proceedings in October but the debate was delayed until Wednesday.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: Stand News.

Large scale protests against the now-withdrawn extradition bill are set to enter their sixth month next week. But the movement has morphed into a larger one demanding democracy and an investigation into the police use of force.

When proposing the motion, Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said the government wrongly thought the conflict could be resolved by handing out cash and provide more subsidised housing.

“No one had too little freedom and dignity to lose in our society. Our compatriots took to the streets with the knowledge they might be subject to police brutality and they might be jailed for multiple years if convicted,” he said.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University at Hung Hom on November 17. Photo: Viola Kam/United Social Press.

“There’s circumstantial evidence suggesting arrestees suffered violence and extrajudicial abuse during police custody. But they love their city, so deeply that they risked their personal freedom and dignity for the freedom and dignity of all Hong Kong people,” he added.

He said the District Council election – where the pro-democracy camp won in a landslide – reflected that “Hong Kong people have had enough of this government.”

“That is why we have to impeach Carrie Lam,” he said.

alvin yeung
Alvin Yeung. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said Lam “100 per cent committed dereliction of duty” by not listening to the public, using the police force to suppress the protests, and misleading Hongkongers.

“The public asked you to form an independent commission of inquiry. After thinking for six months, after the District Council election, you said there will be an independent review committee. What kind of response is that?” he said. “Many peaceful protests [turned violent] because of provocation by the police.”

The independent review committee suggested by Lam will look into the causes of the protests, but will not probe police behaviour.

Pro-Beijing camp criticism 

Starry Lee, chair of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said her party’s members and supporters were angry at the government as well.

starry lee
Starry Lee. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

“I received messages from them criticising the government’s mistakes when handling the extradition bill, as well as the handling of the anti-government actions including rioting, damaging property, harming people, blocking roads and setting fires – it was far from the public’s expectation,” she said.

She said government departments have not been united in helping police to end the violence.

“We still see a lot of unverified rumours online. The police are the only ones who tried to refute them. Where are the government information officers?” she said.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Pro-Beijing Business and Professional Alliance lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok said the government has had deficiencies in handling incidents since June. “But it is not objective and factual to say that the chief executive committed a serious breach of law and dereliction of duty,” he said.

He cited cases of violent protests and said those who violated the law should be prosecuted for rioting, which can carry a 10-year jail setence.

He said there was an existing mechanism to investigate the police.

DAB lawmaker Ann Chiang, however, said an independent commission of inquiry should be set up: “We need to prove the innocence of the police force,” she said.

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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.