Leung Chun-ying

Lawsuit by Hong Kong leader over tax investigation allegation would be ‘bad precedent’, legislator says

Lawmaker threatened with legal action over remarks about Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s HK$50 million payment from engineering firm accuses leader of trying to stop him performing his duties

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 11:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 11:45pm

The lawmaker threatened with legal action by Leung Chun-ying for remarks he made about a HK$50 million payment the city’s leader received from an engineering firm has accused the chief executive of “setting a bad precedent” and trying to stop him performing his duties.

Kenneth Leung, who on Friday joined a Legislative Council select committee beginning a probe into the deal signed with Australian company UGL, said he had not been deterred by a letter from the chief executive’s lawyers he received on Thursday.

“If whatever a lawmaker says inside the Legco building is subject to a civil suit, how can he perform his duties?” the accountancy sector legislator said. “It is stupid and inappropriate to sue a select committee member.”

Although what lawmakers say inside the Legco chamber is protected from legal action by privilege, that does not cover speeches made outside it.

A lawsuit against a legislator would “set a very bad precedent” and worsen the already sour relationship between the legislature and the executive branch of government, the lawmaker said.

He said he would let lawyers deal with the matter, and declined to comment further.

A source familiar with the issue said the chief executive had agreed to a deadline of noon on Monday for the lawmaker’s legal team to reply to Thursday’s letter, after which legal action could be taken. A draft writ was sent to the legislator on Friday after his lawyers only issued a holding reply to the chief executive’s letter.

Leung Chun-ying threatened to sue on the day he left for Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s top political advisory body to which he was appointed earlier this week. He is expected to be elevated to the post of vice-chairman later this month.

CPPCC chairman Yu Zhengsheng will host a meeting with the body’s vice-chairmen on March 10 to discuss “personnel issues”. The Hong Kong leader is expected to be nominated for a vice-chairman position that day, and a vote will take place on March 13.

The chief executive said he had fully explained the case to Beijing, and on Friday sat in the front row at the meeting.

The leader said the lawmaker had no basis to allege as he did at a press briefing on Wednesday that the chief executive was being investigated by overseas tax authorities in relation to the HK$50 million payment from UGL, because he had never received any inquiry “from any tax authority of any place”.

In the letter, the outgoing leader’s lawyers described the legislator’s comments as “a considered and well-prepared strategy to discredit” him.

Leung Chun-ying received the payout after signing a “non-compete and non-poach” agreement with the company in 2011 when it bought insolvent property firm DTZ, of which he was a director.

The chief executive did not declare the payment to the Executive Council, later saying it did not present any conflict of interest with his work in government.

On Friday, the select committee’s first meeting ended with no substantial result after some pro-Beijing members, in a bid to delay proceedings, queried the necessity and wording of an unbinding document that laid out the areas for inquiry.