Lawmakers have spoken out against a suggestion to disband the committee investigating Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying after it was revealed that Leung intervened in its enquiry.

Lawmaker Holden Chow, vice-chair of the committee, allowed the chief executive to alter the scope of an investigation into the controversial HK$50 million payout Leung received from Australian firm UGL. Chow did not notify the committee of Leung’s involvement, but insisted he did not conceal anything as Leung’s edits in the soft copy that Chow submitted to the committee remained viewable.

Leung Chun-ying Holden Chow
Leung Chun-ying and Holden Chow. File

Democrats demanded that Chow resign from the committee and from his legislative position, as he has lost credibility. The incident was brought to the city’s anti-graft agency by democrats, who accused the two politicians of misconduct in public office.

But pro-Beijing lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin, a member of the committee, suggested on Wednesday that, instead of Chow resigning, the committee should be disbanded because of the lack of trust between his camp and the democrats. The Federation of Trade Unions veteran said that the leakage of the document from the closed-door meeting on Monday and democrats’ comments on the incident have put political pressure on the committee.

“They intended to threaten the committee to come to a conclusion that is preferable to them – I think this is very inappropriate,” he said.

“[Their actions] have cost the committee its foundation of mutual trust.”

He also said that pro-democracy lawmaker Kenneth Leung should leave the committee in order to avoid a conflict of interest, as he is being sued by the chief executive over comments he made on the UGL controversy.

Wong Kwok-kin
Wong Kwok-kin. File

Shifting blame

But his idea did not receive a positive response from pro-democracy and pro-Beijing committee members.

“To disband the committee hastily at this stage gives the feeling of shifting blame to the whole committee, as if the committee has made a mistake, and we should restart. I don’t want to give the public such a perception,” said Andrew Wan, Democratic Party lawmaker. “At least we need to [wait until] the whole incident is crystal clear.”

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung agreed with Wan. He dismissed the claim that Kenneth Leung should resign as well.

“Leung Chun-ying took the initiative to sue Kenneth Leung after he joined the committee,” he said. “If there is a precedent preventing lawmakers from joining committees because of lawsuits, then every person under investigation could actively sue committee members and then no one can be part of a committee.”

Andrew Wan Siu-kin
Andrew Wan Siu-kin. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Lam Cheuk-ting, also of the Democratic Party, said the suggestion would be “dangerous,” as the pro-Beijing camp would use their majority in LegCo to weed out individuals they do not approve of.

The current committee consists of seven pro-Beijing lawmakers and four lawmakers from the pro-democracy camp.

Wan and Lam also criticised committee chair Paul Tse for his decision to continue the meeting on Friday in a closed-door setting.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho said he did not see any reason to disband the committee. He said the document Leung edited was “unnecessary” for the committee. As it will only be used for reference, it does not affect the investigation, Ho said.

Inadequate political sensitivity

Starry Lee, chair of Chow’s DAB party, said there are precedents where select committees needed to communicate with the subjects of investigation, but did not explain what the previous cases were.

She said Chow lacked political sensitivity in handling the incident, saying that he could have asked Leung to directly give his opinion to the committee, or revealed Leung’s revisions when he submitted his document.

Starry Lee Wai-king
Starry Lee Wai-king. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

She did not directly address whether Chow should resign or the committee be disbanded, adding that the party would hold discussions with Chow over other issues caused by the incident, and take outside opinions into consideration.

LegCo President Andrew Leung said he will only comment on the incident after the committee’s investigation is completed. But he said “people should be responsible for their own actions” when asked if Chow harmed the integrity of the Legislative Council.

Several pro-democracy lawmakers said on Wednesday that they would move a motion to impeach and condemn Holden Chow at the LegCo meeting on Friday.

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.