HK lawmakers try to impeach Beijing-backed leader

Updated 09 January 2013
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HK lawmakers try to impeach Beijing-backed leader

HONG KONG: Lawmakers were making a symbolic attempt Wednesday to impeach Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, the latest sign of the widening gulf between the semiautonomous southern Chinese city and its political masters in Beijing.
Pro-democracy members of Hong Kong’s legislature were planning to introduce a motion to charge the city’s leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, with serious breaches of law that could lead to his impeachment. They allege Leung misled them about illegal renovations to his mansion.
It’s the first such attempt to impeach a Hong Kong leader since the former British colony came back under China’s control in 1997. Leung survived a no-confidence vote in December.
The motion was unlikely to pass because the 27 legislators are outnumbered by pro-Beijing representatives in the 70-seat Legislative Council. But it was an attempt to “show the deep mistrust against the chief executive,” who is suffering from a credibility crisis, said Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University of Hong Kong. Leung, whose approval rating has fallen to around 50 percent, still has the support of China’s communist leaders.
Leung has become a lightning rod for growing public discontent since taking office in July. Anger over a wide range of issues stems from the city’s fraught relationship with mainland China.
On New Year’s Day, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to call for Leung to step down and to press for full democracy. Beijing has pledged that Hong Kong residents can elect their leader by 2017 at the earliest though no roadmap has been laid out.
Leung took office in July after being handpicked for the city’s top job by an elite group of mostly pro-Beijing tycoons. He won the job after taking advantage of a scandal involving a huge, unauthorized basement in his rival’s home. But shortly before taking office, illegal additions were also discovered at Leung’s home in the exclusive Victoria Peak neighborhood.
Leung has apologized and removed the structures, which included a trellis and a gate. He said some of them were put in before he bought the house.
Even if the motion was approved, Leung is still unlikely to be impeached because an investigation committee headed by the secretary of justice would have to be formed and any findings approved by a two-thirds majority in the legislature.
Beijing has granted Hong Kong rights and freedoms not seen on mainland China and a high degree of autonomy until 2047. The impeachment bid is yet another sign of how Hong Kongers have become increasingly uneasy over the mainland’s growing influence, especially in the form of an influx of visitors coming to shop, buy property and even give birth, putting a strain on the city’s limited resources and pushing up prices.


Beijing protests US warship operation in South China Sea

Updated 33 min 58 sec ago
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Beijing protests US warship operation in South China Sea

BEIJING: China has voiced “strong dissatisfaction” after two US warships sailed by an island claimed by Beijing in the disputed South China Sea, adding to simmering tensions in the strategic waterway.
The foreign ministry issued a statement expressing “resolute opposition” to the US sail-by of the territory in the disputed Paracel Island chain on Sunday.
The US military conducts what it calls “freedom of navigation” voyages in the South China Sea to contest Beijing’s assertion of territorial rights in the area, although the US has no claims of its own in the disputed region.
The US Navy’s Higgins and Antietam warships, a destroyer and cruiser respectively, entered China’s territorial waters without permission and were met by the Chinese Navy, which “conducted verification and identification of US ships according to law and warned them to leave,” the ministry said.
State-run news agency Xinhua said the two vessels were “expelled” from the waters.
The operation was conducted just over a week after Beijing flew nuclear-capable bombers to a disputed island in a bold powerplay to show its military might and boost its territorial claims in the area.
The move prompted immediate criticism from the US, which last week pulled its invitation to China to join maritime exercises in the Pacific because of Beijing’s “continued militarization” of the South China Sea.
Beijing has been building artificial islands to reinforce its claim over most of the resource-rich South China Sea despite protests from Southeast Asian countries.
Its neighbors, particularly some of those involved in maritime disputes over the waters, have expressed fears China could eventually restrict freedom of navigation and overflight.