The District Court ruled Wednesday that it has jurisdiction over a criminal charge against pro-democracy lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung.

Leung was charged last June with misconduct in public office for accepting HK$250,000 in donations from Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying through Lai’s assistant Mark Simon on May 22, 2012 when he was a lawmaker. The prosecution said he wilfully and intentionally failed to declare the payment.

leung kwok hung
Leung Kwok-hung. File Photo: Leung Kwok-hung, via Facebook.

Senior Counsel Martin Lee, representing Leung, argued in court last week that the declaration of interest is an internal affair of the legislature. He said the court should not interfere based on the principle of the separation of powers.

On Wednesday, Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang held that the case did not involve the legislature’s internal affairs, nor did it violate Leung’s privilege to be exempted from criminal liability for his speech made as a lawmaker, RTHK reported.

He ruled that the prosecution may submit as background evidence the relevant legislative meeting minutes and summon witnesses, but the material may not be used to prove that Leung had committed any misconduct.

Last week, the prosecution requested to submit the minutes of a legislative session to show that Leung had never declared the payment from Lai at the legislature or on other occasions. It said the submission of the evidence would not affect lawmakers’ freedom of speech.

A trial is scheduled for next Monday. It is expected to last 10 days.

Legislative inquiry

In December last year, the legislature’s Committee on Members’ Interests received complaints that Leung and former Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan had failed to declare separate donations from Lai.

jimmy lai
Jimmy Lai. Photo: Todd Darling.

It ruled that the complaint was unsubstantiated, on the basis that the pair accepted the sums on behalf of their political parties, rather than as lawmakers.

The votes were originally tied by 3-3 between three pro-Beijing and three pro-democracy lawmakers. But lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, who chairs the body, was obligated to cast a vote and he voted against the complaint.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption pressed charges against Leung after the committee dismissed the complaint. No action was taken against Lee.

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