The chair of the advisory committee of Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency has called upon the Department of Justice (DoJ) to offer a public explanation into why it dropped an investigation into former chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Last week, the DoJ said it lacked sufficient evidence to charge Leung with corruption and misconduct in public office, in relation to his HK$50 million payment from Australian firm UGL.

Benjamin Tang and Chow Chung-kong (second and third from left). Photo: Citizen News.

Leung was criticised for receiving a non-compete and non-poach payment from UGL in 2012 and 2013, after the Australian engineering firm acquired British firm DTZ. Leung was DTZ’s director in 2011, before he ran for the role of chief executive. Part of the payments were made during Leung’s tenure as Hong Kong’s leader, but they were not revealed to the public until a media exposé in 2014.

“I do believe that somehow an explanation should be provided to the community, and to answer the questions that you have all raised,” Chow Chung-kong, chair of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)’s advisory committee on corruption, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.

“The DoJ made the decision according to its professional opinion. The matter can only be explained by the secretary for justice,” he added. “It is not the case that Hong Kong is not a clean society if we do not prosecute one person.”

Chow is also a member of the Executive Council, a committee of top advisors to the chief executive.

Legal challenge

The appeal for an explanation came after the DoJ revealed its decision not to prosecute in a short press release last week. On Tuesday, activist Kwok Cheuk-kin filed a legal challenge against the DoJ.

Benjamin Tang, a retired government director of audit who now oversees operations at the ICAC, said that he believed the Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng would further explain the issue.

Tang said his committee received a report from the ICAC at every meeting since the investigation started in 2014.

Leung Chun-ying. File photo: GovUK.

“I am very certain that colleagues at the ICAC have been trying all means – we have a saying in English: leave no stone unturned. That’s why the investigation lasted for four years,” Tang said.

“[The operations review committee] had asked a lot of questions and conducted detailed discussions. Of course, we have more information than what you can read in newspapers, since we have followed this case for four years, but there’s only so much I can say,” he added.

Asked if the DoJ explained to the committee why it did not seek outside legal advice, Tang said he respected the DoJ’s decision, and that the committee’s role was to monitor the ICAC’s work.

“The ICAC has been unbiased and fearless in handling this case in accordance with the law. It did not perform in any different manner because of the background and status of the person involved in the case,” Tang said. “But if the members of the public wish to know about the rationale behind the decision not to prosecute, I believe the secretary for justice will make a further response at an appropriate time.”

Tang’s remarks echoed those of Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung‘s on Tuesday.

Teresa Cheng. Photo:

A spokesperson for the DoJ told HKFP that Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng was on leave and would return on December 27. The spokesperson did not reveal when Cheng began her leave, and did not comment further on the decision not to prosecute Leung, because a legal challenge has been filed at court.

The Legislative Council’s Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services will have a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, in which Leung’s case will be discussed by lawmakers who have put forward questions.

Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker Priscilla Leung, chair of the panel, said on Wednesday morning that she had tried to reach Teresa Cheng to invite her to the panel meeting, but that there had been no response.

Pro-democracy lawmakers will host a protest march at 2pm on Sunday from Chater Garden in Central to Cheng’s office.

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.