Early talks ruled out over cash for Hong Kong cadets

Home affairs chief faces pan-democrat quiz on ‘unusually speedy approval’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 11:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 11:43pm

Pan-democrats must wait to ­discuss the “unusually speedy ­approval” of funds for a new ­headquarters for a uniformed youth group involving the home affairs minister.

Lau Kong-wah has been ­accused of abusing his position as chairman of a non-profit organisation to facilitate the funds for the Hong Kong Army Cadets ­Association, of which he is also an honorary adviser.

The cadets are also backed by other senior government officials and the People’s Liberation Army.

Pan-democrats have sought an explanation from Lau and 25 of them wrote to Ma Fung-kwok, chairman of the Legislative Council’s home affairs panel, asking him to convene an urgent meeting ­between lawmakers and Lau.

However early talks were ruled out on Tuesday. “I do not see any urgency in the issue. I don’t see what difference it will make if we discuss the issue at a later meeting,” Ma, of the pro-government political group New Forum, said. The next panel meeting is on December 21.

Panel member and pan-democrat Ip Kin-yuen said an urgent meeting was required so Lau could provide further details.

“There are still known ­unknowns,” said Ip, citing as an example why a relatively new and small group could receive such special treatment.

In June the cadets were allowed to turn an old school building in Kowloon Bay into their headquarters.

About a week later, it has since been learned, they were granted HK$30 million by the Board of Management of the Chinese Permanent Cemeteries, a statutory body chaired by Lau, as home affairs chief, for the project.

“The approval came unusually speedy. One can’t help but think it is because of the special background of the association. The public has the right to know whether there is any unusual deal, or whether Lau had abused his roles,” Ip said.

Commander-in-chief of the cadets, formed early last year, is Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, the wife of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who is an honorary patron along with PLA Hong Kong garrison chief Major General Tan Benhong and liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming.

Their chairman is pro-Beijing figure Bunny Chan Chung-bun, a local deputy to the National People’s Congress and chairman of Kwun Tong District Council.

A Home Affairs Bureau spokesman denied any conflict of interest. A cadets spokesman was unavailable for comment.