Hong Kong’s No 2 official calls on Legco to clamp down on ‘misbehaving’ lawmakers
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s comments come after ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung snatched development undersecretary’s folder during meeting
Hong Kong’s No 2 official hopes that the Legislative Council will tighten its rules to stop maverick lawmakers from “misbehaving” during council meetings.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was speaking a week after League of Social Democrats lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung took a folder of confidential documents from development undersecretary Eric Ma Siu-cheung’s desk during a meeting last Tuesday while Ma was answering a question concerning the Wang Chau housing project. The folder was returned to the official after a few minutes.
Ma later reported the incident to police, while Leung explained that he had taken the folder because he was not satisfied with Ma’s answer on how the government had dealt with a consultancy company that misused housing and development information obtained from the authorities.
Speaking before she chaired the weekly Executive Council meeting as acting chief executive, Lam took the initiative to criticise the radical lawmaker.
“Leung gave the folder to lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who flipped through the documents without Ma’s consent. On that night, I wrote to Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen saying that it was extremely regrettable that such thing had happened,” Lam said.
She added that in his reply on Monday, the Legco president said there was “little the legislature could do apart from expelling the lawmakers concerned from the meeting”.
“The president said he would relay my concern to Legco’s committee on rules of procedures. Now the rules cannot prevent lawmakers from misbehaving, let’s see if the committee can handle this problem seriously,” Lam said.
The chief secretary added that Leung Kwok-hung’s antics had undermined the relationship between the executive branch and the legislature, the mutual trust between officials and lawmakers, as well as Legco’s public image.
“If you think that an official had not answered your query ... you can ask a follow-up question or even complain to the ministers – it doesn’t mean you can break the Legco’s rules,” Lam said.
On Monday, Leung was jailed seven days for disturbing participants at a school debating event last year when he and others staged a protest directed at the chief secretary. He was freed on bail, pending an appeal.
Citing the magistrate’s judgement, Lam said that in exercising various freedoms, one must not “deprive others of their right to attend public events at civic centres peacefully”.
“In the same way, the law doesn’t protect lawmakers from doing illegal things in the legislature,” she added.
Regarding the folder incident, a police source close to the investigation said officers would not make any arrest or even collect evidence at this early stage, but added they were investigating the matter in the direction of contempt, with reference to the Legislative Council (Power and Privileges) Ordinance section 17.
“It is just a direction. It is not the first time we have probed cases with regard to this ordinance section,” the force insider said.
“We will seek judicial advice on how to proceed with the case.”
According to the ordinance, one could face a charge of contempt if he or she creates or joins in any disturbance which interrupts or is likely to interrupt the proceedings of the council or a committee.
The charge carries a penalty of a year’s imprisonment and a fine of HK$10,000.
The source said officers would seek consent from the Legco Secretariat to obtain statements from lawmakers and security guards who were at the scene last Tuesday.