League of Social Democrats activist Bull Tsang has filed a legal challenge against the Department of Justice over their decision not to prosecute former chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Last year, the justice department said that there was insufficient evidence to convict Leung for corruption and misconduct in public office in relation to a HK$50 million payment he received from Australian engineering firm UGL. Pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow is also being targetted in the judicial review, after he allowed Leung to revise the scope of a Legislative Council investigation into the payment.

The Department of Justice faced criticism for failing to seek outside legal advice to avoid a perception of bias before it announced its decision not to investigate.

League of Social Democrats CY Leung

The department denied that outside legal advice was usually sought over politically sensitive cases, although it was the practice for several past cases surrounding top officials. A case against Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, which involved illegal structures in her home, involved the DoJ seeking outside legal advice from senior counsel Edwin Choy.

Outside the High Court on Tuesday, Tsang said Cheng’s department had failed in performing its duties: “We wish to ask the court to give justice back to Hong Kong people,” he said.

Leung received the HK$50 million sum from Australian engineering firm UGL as part of a takeover deal with insolvent property company DTZ, to prevent him from joining a rival company within two years. The deal was signed shortly after Leung ran for chief executive in 2011. He received part of the payment after he took office in 2012 – though he did not declare the payment, he has denied wrongdoing.

Holden Chow Leung Chun-ying
Holden Chow and Leung Chun-ying. Photo: HKFP/GovHK.

An investigation committee was set up at the legislature to look into the matter. In 2017, pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow, vice-chair of the investigation committee, allowed Leung to revise the scope of the investigation but the Department of Justice decided not to prosecute Chow.

‘Rule of law’

Last month, two Hong Kong activists applied for legal aid from the government in order to file a judicial review against the decision not to prosecute Leung. Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who was helping the two, said the legal aid application had been rejected.

Lam said that, after the legal application was rejected, his campaign contacted Tsang, who agreed to take over the legal challenge. Lam’s “Wolf Hunting” crowdfunding campaign, launched to look into the UGL case, will extend financial support to Tsang.

“Our legal team will fully support Tsang,” he said. “We believe that the decision not to prosecute has harmed confidence in Hong Kong’s rule of law.”

In December, activist Kwok Cheuk-kin – nicknamed the “King of Judicial Review” – filed his own legal challenge over the Department of Justice’s decision not to prosecute Leung.

Kris Cheng

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.