The Legislative Council rejected a motion on Wednesday to extend parts of an anti-corruption law to cover the Hong Kong’s top official. The news comes as former chief executive Donald Tsang stands trial for misconduct in public office.

A majority of pro-Beijing legislators abstained or voted down the proposed amendment to the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, which would have made it a criminal offence for the chief executive to solicit or accept any advantage without the permission of a statutory independent committee.

The non-binding motion, put forward by Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan, won support from pan-democratic parties as well as four members of the pro-Beijing Liberal Party.

Although the motion gained 18 votes from the geographical constituencies, with one vote against and 11 abstentions, it failed to win support from the functional group, with 12 votes in support, nine against and 10 abstentions.

Leung Chun-ying. Photo: HKFP.

No delay

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said before the vote that expanding the powers of the ordinance was a matter of constitutional reform. She denied any connection to the HK$50 million payment Leung received from Australian firm UGL in 2011.

Lam said that Leung had not changed his stance on the implementation of former Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang’s 2012 recommendation that the ordinance be expanded to cover the chief executive.

Sections 3 and 8 of the ordinance, on the offering or taking of bribes in relation to the government, do not currently apply to the territory’s highest office. In October, former chief executive Donald Tsang was charged with the common law offence of misconduct in public office since he could not be charged under the anti-graft ordinance.

Lam denied accusations that the government had delayed the amendment process, and accused pan-democrat lawmakers of using the motion as part of their election campaign ahead of the November 22 District Council polls.

However, Labour Party lawmaker Lee Chuek-yan questioned the government’s willingness to implement the amendment at all: “Are you waiting for the appropriate time that Leung Chun-ying has stepped down, so that he cannot be prosecuted for the UGL [payment]?”

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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.