Pan-democrat lawmakers sorry for handling of Jimmy Lai donations - but deny breaking rules
Money was not intended for personal use but should have been transferred to party accounts sooner, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung say
Two pan-democrat lawmakers have apologised for how they handled donations made by Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, but denied breaking Legislative Council rules.
Labour Party leader Lee Cheuk-yan said he feared the saga would affect the credibility of the democratic movement “at a critical stage”.
On Thursday, Lee revealed he had waited until this week to transfer HK$500,000 – donated by Lai last year – from his personal bank account to the Labour Party’s account.
Last week some 900 files, apparently stolen from the computer of a close associate of Lai, were leaked to the media revealing millions of dollars in donations made by the media mogul to pan-democrat parties and politicians.
Lee transferred HK$1.5 million to the Labour Party this week, including HK$1 million donated by Lai in recent weeks.
The party intended the HK$500,000 to be put toward its recycling social enterprise “Green Initiative”, Lee said.
The lawmaker said he could not have moved the sum sooner because the registration process for the enterprise had been delayed, something police have corroborated, while its bank account is still unready.
“This was a bad decision,” Lee told Commercial Radio on Friday morning, adding that he would suggest that future donations should go to the party directly.
“I did not handle [the donation] well and have failed to put the public at ease. I apologise over the doubts we caused for the public because of the handling [of the donation] by the Labour Party and by me,” he said.
“I feel deeply uncomfortable that something like this has happened at a critical stage of the [democratic movement],” Lee lamented. “I would owe the movement ... [for] anything that might affect its credibility.”
League of Social Democrats lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, who says he accepted HK$500,000 from Lai which was for the League and not for him personally, also said sorry to his supporters.
“In future donations will go directly to the League,” he said.
Leung also dismissed allegations that he had received another sum of money from Lai in June this year.
Both lawmakers deny breaking Legco rules which state that lawmakers must disclose “financial sponsorships” by any person or organisation.
Leung said the HK$500,000 donation he received last year was used for paying legal fees from several court cases involving League members.
Lee said the Labour Party had made a collective decision to let him temporarily keep the first donation of HK$500,000, but conceded there were no minutes of internal meetings to prove that.
Lee said he was happy to provide information on his personal bank account to prove he had not spent any part of the donation.
Those documents will be submitted to the legislature’s Committee on Members’ Interests, which has asked five pan-democratic lawmakers who allegedly failed to declare donations from Lai to explain the situation before it decides whether an enquiry is necessary.
The others are Democrat James To Kun-sun, Alan Leong Kah-kit and Claudia Mo Man-ching of the Civic Party.
Mo and To have denied receiving any donations from Lai.