image

CY Leung UGL payment saga

‘Frying cold rice’? Hong Kong leader CY Leung compares UGL probe to ‘political show’ lacking novelty

Outgoing chief executive hints he may not testify at hearing on controversial HK$50m payment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 1:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 11:44pm

A month before stepping down as Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has indicated that he will not testify before a legislative panel investigating his past financial dealings if it ­continues to be a “political show”.

During his final question-and-answer session at the Legislative Council on Thursday, the embattled Leung suggested the panel was merely “frying cold [leftover] rice” in probing the payment of HK$50 million he received from Australian firm UGL but failed to declare.

Put an end to filibustering, says outgoing Hong Kong CY Leung in appeal to pan-democrats

He was grilled on it again by opposition lawmakers from the pan-democratic camp, who are seeking to impeach him.

Some pro-establishment legislators, meanwhile, pressed him on undelivered labour policies, while others raised queries on housing and economic development strategies.

When Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho asked him whether he would attend hearings of the Legco inquiry panel on the UGL deal, Leung replied: “It will depend on what the committee serves to do. If the committee is ‘frying cold rice’ and putting on a political show, anyone can give a simple answer.”

Using the Cantonese phrase that means “rehashing the same old story”, Leung suggested the committee was merely going over what had already been reported in the past.

It was revealed in 2014 that Leung had made a non-compete, non-poach deal with UGL, which in 2011 purchased DTZ, an insolvent property firm of which he was a director. Leung received the HK$50 million after his election as chief executive but did not declare it to his cabinet.

A Legco select committee was set up last year to look into the payment, and a political storm erupted earlier this month after Leung was found to have secretly asked pro-government legislator Holden Chow Ho-ding to amend a document on the direction and scope of the investigation.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai also grilled Leung on UGL, reminding him that he was not immune to prosecution even though Beijing had elevated him to the level of a state leader.

Wu cited the case of Ling Jihua, who once held the same title as Leung as vice-chairman of China’s top political advisory body, but was still investigated and punished for corruption.

Leung said he had already explained the matter to everyone, including Beijing, over the past three years.

The central government is satisfied with my explanations and they are not ignorant about it
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying

“The central government is satisfied with my explanations and they are not ignorant about it,” Leung said, insisting that he had complied with the declaration of interest system.

After his behind-the-scenes intervention was revealed, the outgoing leader tried to turn the tables on his critics, asking opposition lawmaker Kenneth Leung to quit the legislative probe as he was facing a defamation suit from the chief executive.

After butting heads through the media for days last month, the two Leungs finally faced off in person at the meeting yesterday.

But instead of asking about the UGL saga, Kenneth Leung questioned the rationale behind a bill seeking to offer profits tax concessions for aircraft lessors and leasing managers.

On the other side of the fence, pro-establishment lawmakers were more concerned about issues such as Hong Kong’s housing shortage. Wong Ting-kwong of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong wanted to know why property prices continued to set new records, despite the government’s effort to boost supply and cool down the market.

“It seems your efforts did not pay off,” Wong said. “Can you tell us what the biggest difficulties you faced are?”

Leung replied that during the five financial years of his term, his administration had sold enough land to build about 51,000 private flats – 2.5 times the total of the ­previous five years.

“Starting from this year, we will see a gradual and obvious increase in the supply of public and private homes,” Leung said.

In a final repeat of his trademark protests against the chief executive in the chamber, radical lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung ran towards him and threw a pile of paper.