Speculation of abuse by two Hong Kong lawmakers following report on Israel study trip

Chinese-language newspaper reported one legislator brought husband along on delegation visit, while another extended trip, but chairman of Legco panel says pair did not breach rules

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 11:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 12:16am

Speculation of abuse by two Hong Kong lawmakers has emerged following a media report on a recent study trip to Israel by a Legislative Council delegation.

Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao on Thursday reported that Democrat Helena Wong Pik-wan had brought her husband with her on the visit, and the couple had also stayed behind for a holiday in the Middle East.

Liberal Party’s Felix Chung Kwok-pan, who was also in the Legco delegation which went on a five-day visit to Israel last month, had also extended the trip.

The Israeli consul general in Hong Kong had invited legislators on the trip to see its information technology and re-industrialisation development.

According to a Legislative Council Secretariat document, the entire trip, signed up by nine lawmakers, cost taxpayers about HK$600,000. The delegation concluded their trip last Friday.

Ming Pao reported Wong’s husband had taken the delegation coach to get to downtown Tel Aviv upon arrival in the city, and he had also occasionally joined the delegation’s gatherings at night.

Chung also chose to extend his trip by three days upon the end of the study trip.

A staff member at Wong’s office confirmed the pan-democrat was holidaying overseas and would not be returning to Hong Kong until next Wednesday.

One of the delegation members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Helena’s husband did not attend the delegation activities. As far as I know, he paid for his own trip.”

In a text message in response to a Post inquiry, Wong said: “[My husband] did not join the Legco visit at all. Please don’t mix it up.”

Meanwhile, Chung argued it was “no big deal”. “This has been the common practice ... I don’t see any abuse,” he said.

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A spokesman for the Legislative Council Secretariat said: “[Lawmakers] are responsible for the extra cost incurred if they stay behind after the duty visit outside Hong Kong. [They] are also responsible for all expenditure incurred if they are accompanied by their relatives during the visit.”

Yiu Si-wing, chairman of the Legco committee on members’ interests, said he was satisfied neither Wong nor Chung had breached any rules or guidelines.

“So long as a lawmaker is not using public money to fund any third party to a duty visit and the visit is not disrupted in any way, there is no need for him or her to make a declaration,” he said.