Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying has sent legal letters via his lawyers to Stand News and scholar Chung Kim-wah demanding the withdrawal of an article and its accompanying picture, which Leung claimed were defamatory.
Sit, Fung, Kwok & Shum Solicitors, acting for Leung, sent the letters on Tuesday in connection with Chung’s article published by Stand News last Saturday. Leung also demanded an apology and damages.
The lawyers’ letters said the article “made a number of unfounded allegations that a close relationship existed between Mr Leung and the triad society or the underworld.”
The article by Chung, assistant professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Department of Applied Social Sciences, mentioned a widely-reported dinner at a Lau Fau Shan restaurant in February 2012 between Leung’s aides and people who allegedly had triad ties.
The article also mentioned another widely-reported incident in August 2013 when alleged triad members appeared outside a town hall meeting of Leung’s and committed violent acts.
The lawyers’ letters also said a graphic made by Stand News portrayed Leung as a member of the underworld with “falsified tattoos on his left arm and over his chest, holding a folding chair while walking down a street, and being looked upon by a huge crowd of passersby.”
“The photograph depicts Mr Leung as a street gangster which is completely false and damaging,” it said.
The letters said that Leung’s election office had – in 2012 – denied accusations related to the Lau Fau Shan dinner, and a year later denied any relationship with triads. The lawyers added that the police had denied allegations that they had not dealt with the August 2013 incident seriously, impartially and independently. Seven people were arrested after the incident.
The letters also mentioned that Leung in 2013 sent legal letters to commentator Joseph Lian, who published an article in the Hong Kong Economic Journal linking Leung with triads. The letters said the newspaper apologised publicly and Lian since left the paper.
In response, Chung said that what he wrote was factual and he would not retract the article.
He told a D100 online talk show that he did not send his article to Stand News – instead, the digital news site reposted a Facebook post of his with approval.
“I did not say he is a member of the triads,” Chung said. “It is an objective fact that the Hong Kong government was suspected to have links to the triads on several occasions during [Leung’s] term.”
Stand News Chief Editor Chung Pui-kuen said he did not believe Chung Kim-wah’s article defamed Leung. He invited Leung to write an article for the news site in response.
“As an influential political figure, state leader, we hope Leung Chun-ying will not frequently threaten to file lawsuits in attempts to force commentators and media into silence,” Chung Pui-ken said.
He also said the graphic had been circulating online for five years and did not state that Leung was a triad member.
In July, Leung’s lawyers sent legal letters to D100 political talk show host Li Wei-ling alleging that her comments on a programme at the end of June were defamatory.