Leung Chun-ying’s tormentor is a political spent force
- Lam Cheuk-ting’s dogged pursuit of the former chief executive over a HK$50m payment from an Australian firm has ended with Leung being cleared by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Department of Justice
The fortunes of politicians are a lot like the stock market: they go up and down in unexpected ways. This week, for example, has been good for former chief executive Leung Chun-ying but terrible for his chief tormentor from the opposition, Lam Cheuk-ting.
After a marathon four-year investigation, the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Department of Justice have cleared Leung over a payment of HK$50 million he received from Australian engineering firm UGL. In an official statement, the Operations Review Committee, which oversees the ICAC’s investigations, said “no further investigative action should be taken”.
This followed a similar decision by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) not to pursue the case back in September. The NCA arguably had jurisdiction because in 2011 UGL purchased real estate firm DTZ, which was listed in Britain and of which Leung was a director. The deal with Leung was struck before he became chief executive but some of the payment was made after he took office.
He did not declare his payment to the Executive Council, the de facto cabinet. However, loose declaration rules rendered it unclear whether he had breached them. But on taking office, the opposition went after him over the payment. Even after many had given up, Lam continued the chase, having tried unsuccessfully to get British and Australian authorities involved.
It’s not clear whether Lam’s actions had been in the public interest, as they had cast doubts on the impartiality of the ICAC and the Justice Department.
The almost crazed personal hatred that Leung provoked among some opposition members was such that many had decided he must be guilty and any agency that wouldn’t hold him responsible must be corrupt.
There was really nothing to sustain Lam’s dogged pursuit except his own credibility as a Democratic Party lawmaker. But now, even that has been compromised. His reputation has suffered a devastating blow this week after 59 members quit the party, among them five district councillors. Of all the party leaders, they singled out Lam for criticism, and the reason for their resignations.
“We have witnessed Lam’s despicable character, and his lack of political ethics,” a statement read.
Whatever the rights and wrongs in the party’s internecine warfare over selecting candidates for the upcoming district council elections, Lam is now a spent force. And his pursuit of Leung has added nothing to his political capital.