Veteran lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung said he was “misled and betrayed” by the secretariat of the Legislative Council. He claimed it gave him and another senior lawmaker different ideas of the power that they would have in chairing a meeting for the presidential election on Wednesday.

Leung – the most senior lawmaker after presidential candidate James To Kun-sun of the Democratic Party – was acting as a presiding member to chair the meeting on Wednesday. But he gave up his role to the next most senior lawmaker, Abraham Shek Lai-him, which sparked controversy as the election was forced through.

Leung apologised again for the incident on Thursday. But he said it was caused by the secretariat and LegCo’s legal advisers telling him that he had no power because he was not the LegCo president.

Leung Yiu-chung
Leung Yiu-chung. Photo: Inmedia.

“[They said] I could only moderate the election process and announce the result,” he said. “But after that I could see that the secretariat and the legal advisers told Abraham Shek that he was president, and not a moderator, and that he had the same powers as the president.”

“I not only felt misled, but betrayed – we have worked together for so many years, why would the secretariat and the legal advisers give me such advice?” Leung added.

He said he asked the secretariat to hand out ballots to all 70 lawmakers, but it refused, saying that three of them could not vote as they had yet to complete their oaths. Leung said the secretariat’s actions contradicted his principles and he allowed the three lawmakers to speak during the meeting.

Leung added that he asked the secretariat for clarification on Thursday and again received the answer that he did not have the power of a president at the time.

‘No longer fair and just’

“The legislature is no longer fair and just – I will spend the rest of my days in the legislature resisting tyranny,” Leung said. “I hope the pan-democrats will still support me.”

A report on news site HK01 cited an unnamed pro-Beijing DAB party lawmaker as saying that Leung had communicated with Shek before giving him the role and that the incident followed a pre-decided “script”.

Leung said he “strongly condemned” the report, adding that HK01 should have checked with him before publishing.

Leung Yiu-chung
Lawmakers with Leung Yiu-chung. Photo: Inmedia.

Criticism and support

Leung sat alongside seven pro-democracy lawmakers at a news conference on Thursday, though the camp consists of 30 lawmakers.

Claudia Mo Man-ching of the Civic Party said she did not want to defend Leung, and that he could have done better on Wednesday, but the party will continue to support him despite the hiccup.

She said the secretariat gave Leung several notes when she was next to him monitoring the meeting. The notes even contained orders from the secretariat such as “stop the meeting.”

“I saw Leung Yiu-chung ignored a lot of the notes,” Mo said.

leung yiu chung sad
Leung Yiu-chung. Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, also of the Civic Party, said Leung should have postponed the meeting – since even pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip had proposed such a move. He said the secretariat must explain the difference in power between meeting moderators and the president, as Shek had clearly exercised much more power.

Leung approached Alvin Yeung and party colleague Dennis Kwok Wing-hang – both lawyers – for advice. Yeung said they advised him to leave the chamber if he did not wish to chair the meeting.

Lau Siu-lai said she was present at the news conference on behalf of other two new lawmakers Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick. Lau said the three did not agree with Leung’s judgment, but people should not question his personality or his party’s work in the districts.

Andrew Leung. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

More discussion needed

Lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said he has known Leung Yiu-chung for more than 30 years, and he understood the senior lawmaker had a soft and hesitant character. He said it may have been the deciding factor in his fate.

When Leung Yiu-chung was still in charge, Leung Kwok-hung said he had not heard of the proposal to disqualify Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen as a candidate for presidency over the unclear status of his nationality.

He said it should be the responsibility of the secretariat to halt the election to give a clear answer on Andrew Leung’s nationality status. If it had been handled professionally, the controversy on Wednesday would not have happened.

He added that the pro-democracy camp must discuss more among themselves to develop resistance strategies.

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.