Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying dodged questions on Thursday about whether he will meet with a legislative committee in charge of investigating a controversial HK$50 million payment he received from Australian firm UGL.

The questions came after Leung was embroiled in a scandal last month after he was found to have edited a document belonging to pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow, thus altering the scope of the probe against him. Leung has yet to indicate whether he will attend the meetings.

Leung Chun-ying
CY Leung at the Q&A on Thursday. Photo: LegCo, via YouTube.

Confronted by Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam during his final Q&A session at the legislature as the city’s leader, Leung said: “If [your question] is meant to beat a dead horse or stage a political show, I think anyone will give the same simple answer.”

“I am asking you if you will attend the meetings,” Tam said in response. “If you think it is not necessary, why did you make some 40 edits to Chow’s document and change the investigative scope?”

“This means you care about it, but you are afraid of facing the probe and attending the meetings. What kind of answer is this?”

The chief executive replied: “On the proposed investigative scope, it is a proposed scope. I think the scopes should be comprehensive and the work of the committee should be completed as soon as possible.”

“The proposed scope is not comprehensive, so I think there are aspects of the scope that can be discussed.”

Declaration of interest

A key question surrounding the controversy was a handwritten phrase added by Leung to the UGL agreement, which stated that Leung was entitled to the payment “provided that such assistance does not create any conflict of interest.”

This provision may provide a basis for Leung to argue that he did not need to declare interest, as he would not have received the payment had the parties considered there to be a conflict of interest.

Democratic Party lawmaker and former anti-graft officer Lam Cheuk-ting said the provision should not be used to shield Leung from corruption allegations.

“I want to ask CY Leung, is it fine for public officers – especially Executive Council members – to copy your practice as long as their contracts [with private companies] state that they can receive payments ‘provided that such assistance does not create any conflict of interest’?”

In response, Leung said: “I am very confident in the anti-corruption system in Hong Kong. I think this is another instance of lawmakers taking things out of context.”

Lam Cheuk-ting
Lam Cheuk-ting. File Photo: Democratic Party.

He said law enforcement agencies in the UK and Australia had stated that they would not investigate the incident. “Even if you are not confident in Hong Kong’s anti-corruption system, you should have confidence in those of the UK and Australia.”

He added that the lawyers who drafted the agreement would not have done so had any improper purposes were involved. “No one has complained about me,” he said. “We need a complete and objective understanding of the issue.”

Lam replied: “How would the lawyers know you would become the chief executive when they drafted the agreement?”

The chief executive said that there was no need to declare the termination agreement: “The Hong Kong government and I have said this many times.”

Since the scandal involving Holden Chow emerged, the pan-democrats have proposed impeaching Leung and condemning Chow. They said the legislature will discuss the motions next Wednesday at the earliest.

Leung is scheduled to leave office on June 30.

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