The government has said there are ways to write off the HK$11.7 million owed to the legislature by four ousted lawmakers.

Nathan Law, Edward Yiu, Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai served as lawmakers for nine months. They were asked to pay back a total of HK$11.74 million in salaries and operating expenses after they were disqualified by the court for the ways in which they took their oaths of office.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said on Tuesday that the government has explained to the legislature what its options are in case it fails to recover the sum. The government’s explanation was made in response to a question from the Legislative Council Commission asking what the options are if the lawmakers fail to pay their debts in full.

The four disqualified lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Edward Yiu, Lau Siu-lai and Nathan Law. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

But Cheung denied it was the government’s stance that the commission – a body formed by lawmakers to make decisions on administrative affairs – should give up its demand.

“We replied to explain the responsibilities of the secretary general of the legislature under the Public Finance Ordinance, and what the available options are to write off the sum if the LegCo Commission fails to recover the sum after efforts are made,” Cheung said.

He said the LegCo Commission will need time to consider before discussing the matter with the government again.

“We are purely explaining how the the current laws operate in reply to the LegCo Commission’s enquiries,” he said. “But the decision will be made by the LegCo Commission. It should make its utmost effort to recover the sum – this is the spirit [of the reply].”

Leung Kwok-hung said in response that they should not have been disqualified, and that if the debt could be written off, the government would be partially returning justice to them. He added that they should not have to return the money as it was used in service of Hong Kong and not for personal benefit.

Matthew Cheung. Photo: GovHK.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow previously said the LegCo Commission could lose if they go to court to demand the return of the money.

The commission previously went to court to ask two other disqualified lawmakers – Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching – to pay back HK$1.86 million in wages and subsidies.

Leung and Yau refused to pay back the sum. Yau received a letter from the court in September, but she said it requested the return of the funds without any mention of legal grounds. Yau told HKFP on Tuesday that she has not received any further requests from the court.

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.