Hong Kong’s leader has backtracked on a pledge to extend an anti-bribery law so that it covers her own job, saying such a move would raise constitutional problems.

In an interview with Now News on Sunday, Carrie Lam said she would not during her current term amend the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance to include the Chief Executive, because of the “constitutional position of the Chief Executive in the SAR political system.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

In the interview, Lam said Beijing would take care of the matter if the Chief Executive was in violation of the ordinance.

“If the incumbent Chief Executive did any of these acts, I believe that the Central Government will definitely deal with this, because this Chief Executive is appointed by the Central Government and has to answer to the Central government.”

Lam made a campaign promise in 2017 to “resolve as soon as possible those constitutional and legal issues aiming at amending the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance to extend the scope of Sections 3 and 8 to cover the Chief Executive.”

Under the current ordinance, Section 3 bans public servants from accepting or soliciting advantages without the Chief Executive’s approval, while Section 8 prevents the bribery of officials by people dealing with public bodies.

Carrie Lam Campaign Manifesto
Campaign promise made by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in 2017. Photo: Chief Executive Office.

Lam told a press conference on Tuesday the issue was “far more complicated” than she had previously thought.

“The government’s position regarding Sections 3 and 8 has always been they were far more complicated and they could end up with sort of a very difficult situation for the Chief Executive to discharge his or her duties,” Lam said. “By now, I considered first it’s not a priority, secondly, I do not intend to take this forward within my term.”

Calls to amend the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance came amid an alleged HK$50 million secret payment from Australian corporation UGL to former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, and a charge of misconduct in public office against another former chief executive, Donald Tsang. He was later cleared.

Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption answers directly and only to the Chief Executive, which has led to questions of possible conflict of interests.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.