Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip has performed a u-turn within hours of backing a motion to condemn fellow lawmaker and lawyer Holden Chow for allowing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to secretly intervene in an enquiry into his controversial payment from Australian firm UGL.

Ip told Commercial Radio on Thursday morning that she would consider supporting the motion if the wording was appropriate. Less than four hours later, she backtracked, saying that Chow’s blunder was an “isolated mistake.”

Ip Lau Suk yee
Regina Ip. File Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

“I won’t support motions condemning Chow or vote for no-confidence just because of a single incident,” she said. “We should give him a chance.”

The pro-democracy camp plans to propose a motion condemning Chow during Friday’s legislative session. The legislature will discuss the motion on June 7 at the earliest.

The suggestion came after Chow was revealed to have allowed Leung Chun-ying to edit his document, altering the scope of a legislative investigation over a HK$50 million payment he received from UGL.

Chow, the vice-chair of the committee in charge of the investigation, subsequently apologised for the way he handled the matter, citing a lack of political sensitivity. However, he refused to resign from the committee.

‘Independent thinking’

Ip said Thursday morning that whether Chow resigns or not would make no difference, because “he has lost credibility” following the incident.

holden chow
Holden Chow. Photo: Inmedia.

Calling Chow’s mistake “unwise,” she said lawmakers must maintain independent thinking as their role is to keep the government in check. She said she had never edited lawmakers’ documents while serving in the government.

She also criticised Chow for giving an “illogical” explanation, whereby he claimed he did not attempt to cover up anything since he did not conceal changes that Leung’s office made to his document.

After the radio show, Ip turned to social media to restate her view: “I think Chow has lost his credibility as member of the investigative committee. His resignation from the committee is a practicable solution, as it would allow the committee to continue operating.”

LegCo select committee
Edits made by Leung’s office to Chow’s document. Photo: Screenshot.

She speculated that Chow’s party –  the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) – wanted him to remain in the committee out of fear that any resignation would be perceived as admission of wrongdoing.

‘Young and inexperienced’ 

But less than four hours later, Ip changed her position, saying that she would not support the pro-democracy camp’s motion: “Chow is young and inexperienced – he has only been a lawmaker for a few months. Maybe the chief executive wanted to talk to Chow, who did not know how to handle the view of the chief executive.”

She maintained that Chow should quit the committee, adding that he should have “digested” Leung’s feedback before submitting any documents to the legislature.

Ip’s party colleague Eunice Yung has also been affected by the scandal, after critics alleged that the content of a document submitted to the committee by Yung was nearly identical to Chow’s.

In defence of Yung, Ip said she had questioned Yung, who denied the allegation.

Regina ip and eunice yung
Eunice Yung (left) and Regina Ip (right). Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Pro-government camp divided

Leung admitted having approached Chow to modify the area of investigation in the matter, though he criticised lawmakers for breaking rules to expose the incident to the public.

The pro-government camp has yet to come to a consensus as to how to respond to the scandal. Pro-Beijing Wong Kwok-kin proposed disbanding the committee instead of having Chow resign from it, citing a lack of trust between his camp and the democrats in the light of the document leak.

But Ip said Thursday that she disagreed with Wong’s suggestion. She added that Leung should share his view directly with the entire committee “if he thinks he is in the right.”

Former lawmaker Selina Chow of pro-business Liberal Party criticised Leung for “blatantly interfering” in the legislature and “calling wrong right.” She also slammed Holden Chow for failing to answer to the legislature and uphold the principle of separation of powers.

While some lawmakers such as Nathan Law have called for Leung’s impeachment, the pro-democracy camp has not reached a consensus. Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said the camp will discuss the suggestion at a later date.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.