Hong Kong Legislative Council votes down bid to set up committee to probe departure of top graft buster
Pro-establishment majority scuttles pan-democrat plan to investigate chief executive’s role in controversial decision as ICAC was probing HK$50m payout
The Legislative Council voted down a Democrat’s motion to investigate the role of the chief executive in a personnel controversy affecting the city’s graft-buster, after a top minister warned the probe would “damage the agency and the city’s reputation and long-term economic interest”.
The Democratic Party’s Lam Cheuk-ting, who initiated the motion, said there was suspicion about whether the removal of top investigator Rebecca Li Bo-lan from her post in the Independent Commission Against Corruption was linked to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, whose receipt of HK$50 million from Australian firm UGL was investigated when Li was in charge of operations.
Concluding the two-day debate, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu had explained that Li’s removal was purely his “personal human resources decision” and had nothing to do with Leung.
“There is no need to exaggerate this decision, undermine the agency’s credibility, smear the commissioner’s integrity and damage Hong Kong’s reputation as one of the most graft-free cities in the world,” Carrie Lam said.
Lam Cheuk-ting countered that Hong Kong’s international reputation had been damaged after former top officials such as Leung’s predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, and his then chief secretary, Rafael Hui Si-yan, were charged with graft.
“How can you speak against your conscience and accuse directly elected lawmakers like us?” he asked.
The Civic Party’s acting leader, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, endorsed the motion. He said Peh had to answer numerous questions, such as why other senior investigators either quit their jobs or boycotted the agency’s annual dinner after Li’s departure.
The motion was voted down after 21 democrats supported it, while 31 pro-establishment lawmakers opposed it.
Lam Cheuk-ting vowed to make another bid to launch a probe into Li’s removal.
On November 2, Legco approved with the support of 28 pan-democrat and localist lawmakers the setting up of a committee to examine Leung’s receipt of the payout from UGL, which the chief executive said was “simply a non-compete arrangement” after he resigned from a property consultancy.
On Wednesday, Carrie Lam raised eyebrows among democrats after she said she “has not been informed” of the ICAC investigation. She clarified on Thursday that she was only saying that because Peh answered to Leung, she had no working or personal relationship with the commissioner.