The Legislative Council has voted down a motion to form a select committee to inquire into the recent staff shake-up at the city’s anti-graft agency and whether Chief Executive was involved in it.

Lam Cheuk-ting, a Democratic Party lawmaker and a former investigator at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), raised the motion on Wednesday.

The motion to form a committee under the Powers and Privileges Ordinance was supported by the pro-democracy camp but opposed by the pro-Beijing camp. It was rejected with 21 votes for the motion and 31 votes against. Two lawmakers who were present did not cast a vote.

Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK/Wikimedia Commons.

Australian newspaper The Age revealed two years ago that Leung Chun-ying received a payment of HK$50 million from engineering corporation UGL in exchange for agreeing to not join rival firms within two years. They signed the agreement in December 2011, when Leung was running for Hong Kong’s top job.

According to Lam, sources in the agency told him that it was investigating the payment, but the Chief Executive’s Office has refused for a year to give up the information requested. The ICAC is responsible to the chief executive.

Resignations ensued at the agency after the appointment of Rebecca Li Bo-lan – the ICAC’s Head of Operations – was cancelled. According to Lam, Li was investigating the case.

Simon Peh Yun-lu, the ICAC Commissioner, said that he alone made the decision and it was based on Li’s work performance.

Leung previously stated that the payment was a normal post-service agreement, and that there was no need to declare it to the Executive Council. He also denied he was involved in the decision to cancel Li’s acting appointment.

Carrie Lam. Photo: Chantal Yuen/HKFP.

No information

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Wednesday that she did not have information that the ICAC was investigating Leung.

“I am afraid these are only speculative or even misleading statements,” she said. “The ICAC has never said publicly that this incident was under investigation.”

Lam added: “I can confirm I did not receive information that the ICAC is conducting this investigation.”

The pro-Beijing camp concurred with Lam’s statement. They said that it was not necessary to investigate the link between the staff shake-up and Leung, if there was no investigation into Leung.

Lam Cheuk-ting. File Photo: Democratic Party.

Ongoing investigation

But Lam Cheuk-ting on Thursday disagreed with the statement before the lawmakers voted for the motion.

He said he filed a complaint against Leung over the UGL payment. He said he would have received notification from the ICAC if the investigation has concluded, according to its rules, but he has yet to be notified.

He also said a top official at the ICAC had taken a statement from him over the case.

“Doesn’t this prove that an investigation is underway?” he said. “The members of the pro-Beijing should not blindly follow [Carrie Lam] – you must be careful in interpreting the Chief Secretary’s statements, otherwise you may easily fall into a trap of words in the style of Leung Chun-ying.”

The Council previously formed a select committee on Leung Chun-ying’s HK$50 million payment from Australian company UGL by a standing petition, but the power of the committee is limited as it is not covered by LegCo’s Powers and Privileges Ordinance. It does not have legal power to compel government officials to give statements and evidence.

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.