The government has opposed a democrat’s motion to summon Chief Executive Carrie Lam to the legislature to explain the expulsion of a Financial Times journalist, saying that lawmakers’ power to call forth officials does not apply to Lam.

Last week, pro-democracy camp convener and lawmaker Claudia Mo submitted a motion to be discussed next Wednesday to summon Lam, Secretary for Security John Lee and Director of Immigration Erick Tsang to appear before the legislature on November 21 to testify and give evidence. The case concerns the government’s refusal to renew a work visa for Victor Mallet, the Financial Times’ Asia news editor and vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong who was effectively expelled from the city last week.

Carrie Lam arriving at the Legislative Council. Photo:

Mo cited Article 73 of the Basic Law in submitting the motion. The article stipulates that lawmakers can exercise powers and functions such as raising questions about the work of the government, and may summon persons concerned to testify or give evidence.

Mo had to retract the part of the motion summoning Lam to ensure the motion would be discussed next week.

Last Friday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung wrote to Legislative Council President Andrew Leung to voice his opposition to the summoning of Lam. He wrote that the chief executive has a special constitutional position and status under the Basic Law.

“The relationship between the Government, headed by the CE, and LegCo is one of regulation and coordination under Articles 64 and 73 of the Basic Law, subject to the principle of an executive-led political system with the CE, as head of the HKSAR, being the lynchpin of such a political system under the Basic Law,” he wrote.

#傳召林鄭 解釋變相驅逐馬凱今早先收到政府上周五晚近7點的反對 #全部係政治理由 😏基本上話一個 #特首地位真係好超然,有權拒絕被傳召到立法會 “.. should not be subject to personal compulsion before Legco”

Posted by Claudia Mo/毛孟靜 on Monday, 15 October 2018

“These principles and provisions manifest an intention on the part of the Basic Law that the CE, as the head of the HKSAR, should not be subject to personal compulsion before LegCo.”

Cheung also cited the LegCo’s Rules of Procedures in saying that the chief executive may attend the legislature’s meetings at her discretion.

“To conclude, let me emphasise again that as the head of the HKSAR, the CE has constitutional responsibilities which make it inappropriate, and incongruent with the design of the Basic Law, for her to attend before the Council to testify or give evidence,” he wrote.

Claudia Mo. Photo:

Mo said the government was using political reasons to block her motion: “The position of the chief executive is so transcendent that she can refuse to be summoned to the Legislative Council,” Mo joked.

She said that the LegCo would have to seek legal advice if she pressed on with her move to summon Lam, which would take a long time. Thus, the pro-democracy camp decided to remove the request to summon Lam, so that the motion could be debated next Wednesday.

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.