New World pair to be recalled by panel to give testimony

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 September, 2009, 12:00am

Property developer Henry Cheng Kar-shun and his top lieutenant at New World China Land will be summoned to testify again to a Legislative Council select committee on November 3, after a court rejected his application not to give testimony.

The select committee investigating the developer's hiring of former housing director Leung Chin-man after his retirement decided that Cheng and New World China executive director Stewart Leung Chi-kin would be asked to testify again.

'We have given them enough time to get prepared and Legco always uses its power carefully when summoning witnesses,' committee deputy chairman Lee Wing-tat said.

Committee chairwoman Li Fung-ying said the committee would consider further steps to take should Cheng file for an appeal.

Legco president Tsang Yok-sing said it would not tolerate anyone who wanted to avoid appearing in any public hearings when summonsed under its special powers, adding that the court's ruling was in line with Legco's long-established position.

Last week, the High Court threw out a judicial review lodged by Cheng to prevent the legislature from forcing him and his colleagues to testify on the grounds that such 'coercive powers' should not be concentrated in the hands of a few lawmakers.

Under the Legco powers and privileges ordinance, the legislature can use its special powers to summons anyone to testify.

Such power is given to select committees.

Cheng and Stewart Leung had refused to respond to a second summons before the panel. Instead, they applied in July for a judicial review, arguing Article 73 of the Basic Law stated only Legco as a whole, with a quorum of at least half its members, could exercise such powers.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nang said the power to summon an unwilling witness was necessary for any inquiry to operate, as the government had agreed the use of such powers by select committees was 'important for the good governance of Hong Kong'.

Asked if the two New World China Land's executives would attend the hearing in November, a spokeswoman said the developer was considering the court's judgment with lawyers and had no further comment at this stage.