HONG KONG — Pro-democracy lawmakers made a symbolic attempt to impeach Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader in the latest sign of the widening gulf between the semiautonomous southern Chinese city and its political masters on the mainland.
The motion was unsurprisingly voted down late Wednesday after lengthy debate in the 70-seat Legislative Council, where the 27 pro-democracy legislators are outnumbered by pro-Beijing representatives.
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.
The motion's supporters sought to charge Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying with serious breaches of law that could have led to his impeachment. They allege Leung misled them about illegal renovations to his mansion.
Leung survived a no-confidence vote in December but was the first Hong Kong leader to face an impeachment attempt since the former British colony came back under China's control in 1997.
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, whose Communist Party leaders still support him.
On New Year's Day, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to call for Leung to resign 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 was 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.
Hong Kongers have rights and freedoms not seen on mainland China, and Beijing has granted the territory 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.