The acting Chief Executive has said that the government treats any illegal or rule-breaking actions of lawmakers seriously, after a legislator and an activist received jail sentences following a protest.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was acting as Chief Executive on Tuesday in place of Leung Chun-ying who has been attending the APEC meeting in Peru. Pro-democracy lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung was sentenced to seven days in jail on Monday for disrupting a school debating event last year when he and People Power politician Tam Tak-chi led a protest against her.

Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

“In Hong Kong, we very much respect everyone’s freedom, including speech, assembly, protest freedoms – these are protected by the Basic Law,” she said ahead of the Executive Council meeting. “But when they use these freedoms, it does not mean they can strip it from other citizens – they have constitutional rights as well, that they can attend the event in the civic centre in a calm atmosphere.”

“In the Legislative Council, lawmakers are protected by the Powers and Privileges Ordinance, but it only protects their freedom of speech, and not other illegal or rule-breaking actions. Therefore I stress that the government respects the relationship between the administration and the legislature, but in the face of such actions of individual lawmakers, we will treat it seriously.”

Document incident 

Lam said she agreed with the response of Under Secretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung in who made a police report after Leung took his documents during a meeting at the Legislative Council last week. Leung passed the documents to lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick.

Leung Kwok-hung. Photo: LegCo.

Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po later said he was involved in the decision to contact the police. Lam said there was no need to speculate over who made the call.

Lam said that “such uncivilised and disorderly actions should not be seen at a meeting of the Legislative Council again. At the time, I thought such actions would hurt the relationship between the administration and the legislature, and [affect] officials answering questions from lawmakers at the Council… Therefore, two days later, when  – after discussion – Under Secretary Ma and Secretary Paul Chan made a police report, I agreed with this decision.”

Lam said that if lawmakers were not satisfied with officials’ answers and prepared documents, they could make complaints to officials higher up.

“Leung, as a lawmaker, should set an example to maintain law and order, there is no excuse for him to take such actions,” she said.

Andrew Leung. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP

She also said that she had sent a letter to LegCo president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen on the evening of November 15 – when the incident occurred – expressing that the government reserved the right to pursue the incident in accordance with law.

She added that Andrew Leung sent her a reply on Monday stating that the chair of a LegCo panel could not ask the relevant lawmakers to leave.

“I felt some helplessness in his letter,” she said, but added that she would pass on her concerns to the new committee on rules of procedures at the LegCo.

Xi approval

Lam said the government was “very happy” that Chinese president Xi Jinping “fully endorses” the work of the Chief Executive and the government: “We will work hard in the remaining term of seven-odd months to complete the policy promises made by the Chief Executive.”

Lam said she would not respond to speeches made at closed door events, when asked about rumours that she expressed her wish to retire at an event hosted by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects two weeks ago.

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.