Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has ignored a reporter’s question on whether a recent staff shakeup at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was related to the controversy surrounding his alleged acceptance of HK$50m from Australian engineering firm UGL.

Leung was asked the question when attending a beach cleanup on Sunday. He did not respond, and instead turned away and left with his entourage, Apple Daily reported.

The question came after Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan said at a press conference on Saturday that according to “credible sources” there was little progress with the UGL case because neither the Chief Executive Office nor the Executive Council had responded to requests for information by the ICAC made nearly a year ago. He also questioned whether the case was related to the departure of a respected official of the ICAC.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen. File Photo: Stand News.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung also said on Sunday that he would not comment on individual cases when asked about the UGL controversy.

Yuen said that he understood that the public was concerned about the incident, and promised that the ICAC would deal with the case in a fair and just manner. He added that the investigation would not be affected by the person concerned.

‘Deliberately lax’

At the press conference on Saturday, Ho questioned whether the UGL case had any connection to the replacement of ICAC’s acting Head of Operations Rebecca Li Bo-lan with Ricky Yau Shu-chun starting July 18, which was announced last Thursday. Many have asked the corruption watchdog to explain the unusual staff shake-up to the public.

Rebecca Li Bo-lan. Photo: ICAC.

Democratic Party district councillor and former ICAC investigator Lam Cheuk-ting said that Li was the highest-ranking official involved in the UGL investigation, and called on Leung to explain whether he had taken part in the decision relating to Li’s position in the ICAC.

File photo: HKFP, Tom Grundy.

‘The dark ages’

Lam also said at the press conference that he had received three tip-offs from the ICAC questioning Li’s departure, adding that the ICAC has “entered the dark ages.”

Lam also said that sources have told him that the head of the investigation concerning former ICAC chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming has been appointed as a director, leading many to question whether the arrangement was a reward for letting Tong off the hook. Tong ultimately did not face criminal prosecution for misconduct in public office, despite reports of lavish expenditure.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

An ICAC spokesperson also told Ming Pao when asked about the UGL incident that the watchdog would not comment on individual cases. The Chief Executive Office said that staff appointments were an internal ICAC matter and that the Chief Executive does not partake in decision making nor provide any opinions on the matter. It also said it would not comment on investigations although it would cooperate when necessary.

The UGL case refers to revelations by Fairfax media in October 2014 that Leung received HK$50m in connection with a bid by UGL for DTZ – where Leung was a director. Leung has always denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the payment was for agreeing not to join or set up a competing company within two years, though he was also paid for being an occasional adviser to the new firm.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.