The Legislative Council will take legal action against ousted lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung to reclaim HK$2.75 million in salaries and subsidies after he failed to respond to its request to pay back a portion of the funds.
Last month, the legislature decided that it would not pursue HK$11.74 million in salaries and operating expenses owed by four disqualified legislators including Leung.
However, they were required to give back unused prepaid expenses – between HK$190,000 and HK$310,000 each – that would normally be returned after the end of a legislator’s term in office, as well as items bought using prepaid funds such as phones and computers.
Yiu and Lau have returned the funds, whilst Law said he will pay by Tuesday’s deadline. However, Leung did not respond to the legislature’s request for him to return HK$190,000 in prepaid expenses.
The LegCo Commission – a body formed by lawmakers in charge of administrative affairs at the legislature – decided to take legal action after a meeting on Monday. The move was not supported by pro-democracy lawmakers in the commission, who were in the minority.
LegCo President Andrew Leung said the commission must take action or risk being seen as a “paper tiger” in the future.
“We got no choice, although we may not want to choose to go that route,” Leung said.
The Legislative Council first demanded the repayment of salaries and operating expenses last November, saying that the disqualified legislators each owed between HK$2.7 and HK$3.1 million. They were ousted from the legislature over the controversial ways in which they took their oaths of office in 2016, and were retroactively disqualified.
LegCo Commission member and lawmaker Dennis Kwok previously said that it may take HK$10 million in legal expenses to demand repayment from the four. But it is unclear how much it would cost to pursue a case against one of them.
Andrew Leung denied claims that the legislative council did not have legal grounds to pursue the funds. The four lawmakers exercised their duties for nine months before they were disqualified on July 14 last year.
“They have reasons in explaining [why they should keep the salaries and subsidies]. But we never said we had a slim chance of winning the case,” he said.
In response, Leung Kwok-hung said the appeal against his disqualification was still ongoing.
He said he believed it was reasonable to return the unpaid funds, but added that the legislature only asked disqualified lawmakers Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching to return their salaries and expenses after their final appeal failed.
“My view is that the case has not finished – it means I don’t know when my lawmaker status will be recovered or not,” he said, adding that the legislature should wait until his appeal has ended.
He said he has no reason to reply to the letter from the legislature.
His case was scheduled to be heard in April next year.