A Grand Bauhinia Medal granted to former chief secretary Rafael Hui was revoked by the government on Friday – the first ever case of the territory’s top award being withdrawn. Hui is serving a seven-year sentence following graft convictions.

The Silver Bauhinia Medal belonging to property tycoon Thomas Kwok of Sun Hung Kai was also revoked by the government on Friday, a month after the pair settled with the government over legal fees, following their failed final appeal over their criminal convictions last year.

The names of Hui and Kwok, who both received the honours in 2007, had been removed from the recipients lists of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Honours and Awards when viewed on Friday, after the decision was published in the official Gazette on the same day.

Rafael Hui and Thomas Kwok. /Citizen News.

The Justices of Peace status granted to Hui and Kwok were also revoked on Friday by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, citing powers conferred upon her by section 6(1)(a) of the Justices of Peace Ordinance.

The Court of Final Appeal rejected the duo’s appeals over their conviction of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office in June last year. Hui was jailed for seven and a half years on five charges and Kwok was jailed for five years on one charge.

The Department of Justice then asked for HK$5.68 million in legal fees. During a hearing in early February, it was revealed that the department had reached a consensus with Kwok that he will pay for half of the fees. Hui will not need to pay any.

Four people have been stripped of their honours since the Handover in 1997. Former Wheelock & Co. chair John Hung was stripped of his Silver Bauhinia Medal and his Justice of Peace status in 2012 because of a criminal conviction. The other three were stripped of Medals of Honour because of criminal convictions.

Former chief executive Donald Tsang, who was jailed for 20 months for misconduct in public office but is appealing, still has the Grand Bauhinia Medal which he received in 2002.

Tsang also received a knighthood before the 1997 Handover to China, which gave him the title of “Sir” – but he has not used since the Handover.

Donald Tsang. Photo: Citizen News.

The Protocol Division of the Government Secretariat explains the system for withdrawing medals on its website: “To maintain the integrity of the … honours and awards system, if an award recipient’s actions raise the question of whether he/she should be allowed to continue to hold the honour(s), such as conviction of an offence resulting in imprisonment for one year or more, whether suspended or not, or he/she has behaved in a manner which has brought serious disrepute to the honours and awards system, etc., forfeiture of his/her honour(s) will be considered.

“Director of Protocol will process cases that have come to his/her knowledge for invoking the forfeiture mechanism. Each forfeiture case is to be approved personally by the Chief Executive. The forfeiture will be notified in the Gazette with the name removed from the honours list and medal(s)/certificate(s) to be retrieved.”

Section 6(1)(a) of the Justices of Peace Ordinance states that the chief executive may by notice in writing to a justice of the peace revoke his appointment as such if at any time after his appointment as such, that justice of the peace has been convicted in Hong Kong or any other place of an offence in respect of which he has been sentenced to imprisonment, whether suspended or not.

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Kris Cheng

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.