New World chief in bid to skip Court of Appeal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 October, 2009, 12:00am

New World China Land chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun has told legislators that he wishes to take a legal challenge to select committees' summoning powers straight to the Court of Final Appeal.

In a letter to the select committee on post-civil-service work of former housing director Leung Chin-man, lawyers for Cheng asked lawmakers to consent to a leapfrog procedure that would fast track the judicial review battle past the Court of Appeal and straight into the top court.

New World China Land hired Leung in August last year, 19 months after he retired, but he quit less than two weeks after taking up the post of vice-chairman and executive director amid conflict-of-interest claims.

The select committee received a letter from Cheng and the company's executive director, Stewart Leung Chi-kin, on Monday.

Lee Wing-tat, deputy chairman of the inquiry, said yesterday that the select committee was seeking legal advice on the developer's request.

'There is not enough information for us to make a decision at this stage,' he said after a closed-door meeting yesterday. 'Our legal advisers are collecting more details from the developer.'

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a member of the select committee, said the leapfrog procedure could only be used to overturn a binding precedent. Since the case involved issues that were being decided for the first time, he said it was unlikely the court would allow such a move, and that he was inclined to withhold consent for such a move.

Another member, Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, said that because the case involved discussions of constitutional issues for the first time, 'the Court of Final Appeal would like to have the benefit of the thinking and reasoning of the Court of Appeal'.

Cheng's challenge hinges on the interpretation of Article 73 of the Basic Law, which describes the powers and functions of the Legislative Council. It argues that only Legco, sitting as a whole, can exercise summoning powers.

His challenge was rejected by Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung last month in the first judicial opinion on the interpretation of that article.

Lee said the select committee's summons, requiring the pair to testify before the legislature on November 3, was still valid.