Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has criticised lawmakers for breaking rules to reveal that he had secretly intervened in an enquiry into his controversial payment from Australian firm UGL. Leung said that the leaking of information from a closed-door meeting on Monday was in breach of a confidentiality agreement.

He also admitted on Tuesday that he approached pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow to modify the area of investigation.

The Legislative Council’s select committee investigating the HK$50 million payment Leung received from Australian firm UGL was notified during Monday’s meeting that edits were made on a document submitted by Chow. The changes broadened the scope of the enquiry by adding questions such as whether the UGL agreement is authentic and whether Leung should have declared the payment to the top judge. The additional questions may provide Leung with an advantage by slowing down the investigation and creating more opportunities for critics to question its results.

Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying. File Photo: GovHK.

The 44 edits on the Microsoft Word document were made by a user named “CEO-CE.” Leung on Tuesday admitted that he made the edits, but restated that as the subject of the investigation, he has the right to express his views. Democrats objected to the method he chose, saying that he should have written to the committee officially.

The LegCo select committee already held three open meetings in March and April, but the meeting on Monday was conducted behind closed doors. It was revealed during the meeting that its purpose was to discuss the edits made by Leung.

“I believe all the actions of this committee can be done in the open – there is no need for a closed-door meeting,” Leung said. “As expected, the committee agreed on confidentiality. But right after the meeting, someone leaked items that should be kept confidential – I do not mind, but it violates LegCo rules, so I believe LegCo should investigate.”

Legislative Council Leung Chun-ying.
An email from the Legislative Council secretariat to lawmakers showed edits on the document by Leung Chun-ying. Photo: Screenshot.

“I have two principles regarding [the UGL probe]. One is to complete this investigation as soon as possible – it should not be delayed, [and] I will fully cooperate,” he said. “The second principle is that the investigation must be comprehensive – otherwise after the year of investigation, some will still say that the committee missed something.”

The committee is expected to conduct its probe until June next year.

LegCo select committee
Photo: Screenshot.

Leung explained that he persuaded Chow to let him add the items directly.

“The items that Chow believed there was no need to investigate were added into the edited version… So I said why don’t I edit it and give the items to him after I add them – that’s why I gave him the [edited] document.”

Leung said he had many ways to voice his opinion, but thought it would be quicker for the committee to agree on the scope of the investigation if he approached Chow.

The items on the edited document were then raised by Chow at the meeting on April 25.

holden chow
Holden Chow. Photo: Inmedia.

The agreement with UGL was signed at the end of 2011, before Leung joined the chief executive election. But some of the payments were received after he was chosen as the Hong Kong leader in 2012.

Leung said “the whole exit agreement” was revealed by Australian media in 2014, and the process also involved the Royal Bank of Scotland. He said he has yet to receive any enquiries from the companies, Hong Kong and foreign tax departments, and foreign law enforcement agencies.

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.