Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting on Thursday called on the Department of Justice to provide a full explanation of why it dropped its case against former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, otherwise his party will file a legal challenge against the prosecutors behind the decision.
Lam, a member of the Democratic Party, said that the justification provided by the Department of Justice (DOJ) was not detailed enough to dispel the public’s doubts. He also questioned the DOJ’s decision not to seek outside legal advice.
“The statement issued by the Department of Justice yesterday was just one piece of paper,” he said. “There were three charges involved, but the explanation took up only half a page… Overall, the statement was unhelpful to the public’s understanding.”
On Wednesday, the DOJ said it did not have sufficient evidence to charge Leung and pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow for corruption and misconduct in public office.
Leung was criticised for receiving a non-compete and non-poach payment of HK$50 million from the Australian firm UGL in 2012 and 2013, after it acquired UK firm DTZ. Leung was DTZ’s director in 2011, before he ran for the role of chief executive. The payments were made during Leung’s tenure as Hong Kong’s leader, but were not disclosed until a media exposé in 2014.
Democrats have accused Leung of encouraging the acquisition deal so that he could benefit from it, and failing to declare the payment while in office. Leung has denied any wrongdoing.
Speaking to press on Thursday, Lam cited the example of the DOJ’s 2013 statement on the case of former executive council member Franklin Lam, where the Director of Public Prosecutions explained the decision not to prosecute. The document was five pages long.
Lam said he already sent a letter to the chair of the legislature’s Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services, asking the panel to summon the Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng to give a more complete explanation before lawmakers.
If they fail to do so, the Democratic Party will file a judicial review against the prosecutors’ decision, Lam said.
Hong Kong law allows the public to challenge various types of government decisions in court, but cases challenging a prosecutor’s decision are comparatively few.
Asked about the legal grounds of the judicial review, Lam said his party’s lawyers were studying the matter, but he felt it was appropriate to go to court because the question was of public interest.
Earlier this year, a number of Democratic Party members including Lam launched a crowdfunding campaign calling for a local and overseas investigation into Leung.
Lam clarified that, if the party were to challenge the prosecutors in court, they would apply for legal aid instead of using funds from the campaign.
Legal academic weighs in
Eric Cheung, the principal lecturer of the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law, said earlier on Thursday that the DOJ “deviated from established rules and procedures” in its statement.
The DOJ’s statement on Leung only provided the conclusion but did not give legal analysis, Cheung said. He compared it unfavourably to a similar 2003 statement which was 17 pages long.
“But the authority is in their hands – what could I say?” Cheung wrote in a Facebook post.