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CY Leung UGL payment saga

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying suggests he will not answer to Legco probe into HK$50 million UGL payout

Chief executive says investigators ‘should first examine the answers’ he has already given, accusing pan-democrats of abusing impeachment process

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 12:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 10:34pm

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying dropped his strongest hint yet that he will not testify at a legislative probe into his business dealings, saying he had already come clean on the matter.

Leung, whose term will end on June 30, accused pan-democrats of abusing the rules in trying to impeach him over his behind-the-scenes intervention in the Legislative Council’s investigation into the HK$50 million he got from Australian engineering firm UGL.

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He also snubbed a law professor’s proposal that he set up an independent inquiry into the matter.

Leung said he had already answered the relevant questions, saying any investigator “should first examine the answers that myself and UGL have given”.

The Legco investigation is into Leung’s receipt of HK$50 million from UGL following its 2011 purchase of DTZ, an insolvent property company of which Leung was a director before he took the city’s top job in 2012. Leung took the cash after his election, but did not declare it to his cabinet.

On Monday, pro-establishment legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun, chairman of the select committee in charge of the probe, said he would be disappointed if Leung were reluctant to testify.

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But on Tuesday morning Leung said: “Before asking me any question, anyone or any [lawmaker] should first examine the answers that myself and UGL have given in the past two and a half years.

“He should also judge according to logic and common sense … why local and overseas authorities did not take any action on the complaint, but it is being argued repeatedly here.”

The chief executive also came under fire last week after it was revealed that he had quietly asked pro-government legislator Holden Chow Ho-ding to alter a document on the scope and direction of the Legco investigation.

Accusing Leung of abusing his power, 28 pan-democrats filed an impeachment motion against him on Monday.

Leung said: “I think they are abusing the mechanism of impeachment.” He did not elaborate.

Leung reiterated that he thought pan-democrat Kenneth Leung should quit the probe as he was facing a defamation suit by the chief executive.

Also on Monday, the University of Hong Kong’s Eric Cheung Tat-ming posted a list of nine questions on Leung Chun-ying’s Facebook page, asking him to come clean on the payment and whether he would launch a probe into himself, as he had questioned the impartiality of the legislative inquiry.

Leung said on Tuesday: “Obviously Cheung did not know nor try to understand that UGL and myself answered most of his questions two and a half years ago.”

Pan-democrats hit back in a press conference at noon, saying the chief executive had abused his power by intervening in the affairs of Legco.

“What Leung and Chow did is totally unacceptable. If we turn a blind eye to it, Legco will lose its respect,” Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said.

The 28 lawmakers initiated an impeachment motion charging that Leung was in contempt of Legco by improperly intervening with the affairs of the select committee in dereliction of his constitutional duty under the Basic Law, the city’s mini constitution.

The motion will be tabled on June 7, just three weeks before Leung steps down from office. The chances of it being passed are slim as a lawmaker’s motion can only be approved with majority support from each of the geographical and functional groups of legislators in the chamber – the latter dominated by the pro-establishment camp of politicians. If the motion were passed in split voting, it would trigger an inquiry headed by the city’s top judge. If the inquiry concluded there was sufficient evidence to impeach the chief executive, and the motion was then passed with a two-thirds majority in the legislature, Beijing would then have to decide whether to unseat the Hong Kong leader.

“The meaning of this motion is to leave a record in history,” lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said. Yeung meanwhile added that they would also lobby the pro-establishment camp for support.

Lam Cheuk-ting, a member of the select committee, said he would issue a formal letter to its chairman Tse, inviting Leung Chun-ying to come to the committee for an open-door meeting to discuss the scope of the investigation and any possible collusion with Chow.

“Rather than writing every day on his blog, why doesn’t he come to us directly and speak for himself?” Lam said. “He said his explanation was justified, so just come and convince the public.”