C.Y. wanted to 'avoid confusion'
Leung Chun-ying's lawyer told the High Court yesterday that retracting a statement he made denying there were any illegal structures at his house would only add to public confusion over the issue.
Leung's lawyer, Johnny Mok SC, dismissed the contention of two pan-democratic lawmakers that Leung should have publicly corrected his statement before he was elected chief executive in March, as it was later revealed his Peel Rise homes had as many as six illegal structures.
The two lawmakers - one of them Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, who came third in the election - have asked the Court of First Instance to review whether the chief executive is 'a person of integrity', as required under the Basic Law, and, if it deems he is not, to find him not duly elected.
Their case rests on whether Leung made a false and misleading statement when he told reporters in May last year that he had no illegal structures at his home. Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon reserved his decision on the request. He said he would hand down a written judgment later.
During proceedings, Mok said retracting the statement would do no good, because both versions would linger in public newspaper archives.
A reader might see one, but not the other, which could muddle the matter, he said.
'In my submission, it [would have] further confused the [first] statement rather than clarifying it,' said Mok, adding that the statement was made months before nominations for the poll began in February. Mok said the Basic Law's 'person of integrity' requirement referred only to the chief executive's conduct after he took office, not before. Leung maintains he did not know about the illegal structures until they were revealed by the media last month.
Ho's lawyer, Martin Lee Chu-ming SC, argued that Leung initiated publication of the false statement and knew it would be reported.
He benefited further from it when it was revealed that the wife of his leading rival, Henry Tang Ying-yen, had an illegal basement in her Kowloon Tong house.
During a televised debate, Leung questioned Tang's integrity over the latter's statements denying the house had any illegal structures.
Lee told the court Ho would not pursue an order for the vacation of the chief executive's office if he won the case. But he said Ho would continue to ask for a declaration that Leung was not duly elected.
Ho was joined in his court action by lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, a member of the election committee that selects the chief executive.
Mok said the Basic Law made no provision for a court to rule on the integrity of the chief executive in an attempt to overturn an election's outcome. That must be done through an election petition, something Ho has also filed.
The court, Mok said, could not make a moral judgment on the chief executive, which was a political question based on an individual's 'subjective interpretation'.
Lee criticised Mok for making largely 'technical points of argument'.