The Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) has issued a statement criticising Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s comment that it was “very immoral” to privately record the governing Council meeting of the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

However, the HKJA said Leung’s HK$50 million secret payment from UGL was similarly exposed through the disclosure of confidential material. It said that the public have the right to monitor public figures.

Leung was speaking to reporters ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday. He was responding to the leaking of two recordings of speeches by Council members Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and Leonie Ki Man-fung during a controversial session on September 29, in which the governing body rejected the appointment of liberal law scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun as pro-vice-chancellor of the university.

Leung Chun-ying was criticised by the HKJa over his comments on confidentiality. Photo: Stand News.

“When an insider decides to disclose confidential information to the media, it is an indication of failures in… its monitoring or checking procedures for the maintenance of balance between its own interests and those of the public.” HKJA’s statement read.

The recordings of speeches made at an HKU Council meeting were leaked after it failed to explain the rationale for rejecting the appointment of Johannes Chan, despite strong requests from the public to do so, the statement went on to say.

“It is not uncommon, both locally and overseas, that an insider discloses confidential materials to monitor those in power and fight for justice, an instance of which was the 2014 Australian media revelation that the CE did not make any declaration of the secret contract under which the Australian firm UGL agreed to pay him 4 million pounds in departure settlement.”

“To put the principle of confidentiality before the public’s interest will certainly erode the media of its capabilities to monitor those in power.” HKJA concluded.

The UGL secret payment to Leung was first reported by Australian media on October 14 last year, during the pro-democracy Occupy protests.

In a question-and-answer session in the Legislative Council in October, Leung said that he had explained the issue for many times through his written statements, the government and UGL, stating that he had nothing to add.

Kris Cheng

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.