The pro-democracy camp has demanded that pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding resign from the legislature’s investigation committee, after he was accused of secretly working with the Chief Executive Office to revise the scope of an inquiry into Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying.
A document on a select committee investigation into Australian firm UGL’s controversial HK$50 million payment to Leung was submitted by Chow to the Legislative Council’s secretariat. It contains at least 34 edits made on April 21 and 22 by a user named “CEO-CE,” which stands for the Chief Executive’s Office-Chief Executive.
Leung received a payment of HK$50 million from Australian company UGL in exchange for not joining rival firms within two years. Parts of the payment were received during his tenure as Hong Kong’s leader. He did not declare the payment at the time and later argued he did not need to, as it was only a normal “non-compete and non-poach” agreement.
The committee discovered the document’s edit history at a closed door meeting on Monday. Leung neither confirmed nor denied allegations that his office directly edited the document, but claimed that, as the person under investigation, he has the need and the right to express his own views.
The edits range from changes in font size and grammar to the removal and addition of lines concerning the scope of the investigation. Some of the changes may give Leung an advantage – for example, the addition of more questions may stall the process.
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said Chow’s conduct raised serious questions about the committee’s work.
“A lot of taxpayer money and Legislative Council time has been spent on this select committee investigation. Because of his conduct this whole investigation has been set back, its integrity compromised, and we may have to restart the whole process all over again because of what he did,” said Kwok.
“Not only he should resign, he should also disclose the fullest extent of his communication with the Chief Executive Office with regards to the work of the select committee.”
He added that it may be necessary to launch an investigation into whether Chow or his DAB party received benefits, and whether Leung used any resources from the Chief Executive Office.
Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan said Chow has never asked the committee about the edits and made no declarations concerning them.
“He is willing to be an undercover agent for Leung. He has confused his role and duties as a lawmaker,” she said. “This is unacceptable.”
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun urged the DAB party to make its position clear and ask Chow to resign from the committee.
Independent lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said she would move a motion to condemn Chow this Friday, which requires the support of three lawmakers.
“I don’t see any difficulty [in moving the motion],” she said. “His actions go against common sense. He is a lawyer – his actions are akin to working with a suspect to falsify statements.”
Chow declined to comment, saying that he should not comment until the closed-door meeting is finished next week.
“I need to respect the rules of the closed-door meeting,” he told reporters. He was forced to repeat his statement three times when reporters chased after him as he tried to leave.
The select committee was not set up using the LegCo’s Powers and Privileges Ordinance, which meant it does not have the legal power to compel witnesses to attend meetings and give true statements.