Justice suffers as distrust of Teresa Cheng deepens

  • Failure to explain why former chief executive Leung Chun-ying will not be prosecuted has resulted in a complete mess, and blame lies on the shoulders of the secretary for justice
PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 December, 2018, 5:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 December, 2018, 10:45pm

When it comes to Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah and her Department of Justice’s decision not to prosecute former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, the government and its allies have formed a rather disunited front.

One reason is that the secretary for justice and her legal colleagues have made a complete mess in the way they announced and explained (away) why they were letting Leung off the hook over a HK$50 million payment. Another problem is Cheng and her “credibility gap” with the public and even with some ­pro-government figures.

Since all legal avenues have been exhausted, the opposition has given up on sending another former chief executive to jail. So the department’s PR mess presents itself as a consolation prize, a Christmas gift of sorts – to keep the controversy in the news and milk it for all its worth. Obviously, no amount of official “explaining” could ever satisfy the opposition.

But different and even conflicting messages are coming from Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her allies in the legislative and executive councils. These create an opening for the opposition. Lam has been Cheng’s greatest defender, ever since the latter took up her job amid a row over illegal structures at her luxury homes. This time is no different, as she has again given Cheng her full support.

Justice chief isn’t just wrong about CY Leung case, she’s arrogant and clueless

But even the usually reliable Paul Tse Wai-chun, chairman of the Legco select committee looking in the controversial payment, has questioned Cheng’s role in the decision not to prosecute Leung.

In an RTHK interview, the government-friendly lawmaker recalled that Cheng’s predecessor, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, recused himself by delegating Leung’s case to the department’s director of prosecutions. Meanwhile, Bernard Chan, the Exco convenor, has called on Cheng to explain her department’s decision further to the public. Usually one of Lam’s closest allies, Chan’s call contrasts with her stated wish that the case should be laid to rest.

But responsibility for the whole fiasco must fall squarely on Cheng’s shoulders. Not only was she on holiday when the department’s decision was announced – thereby giving the opposition a field day to spin their tale – but on her return, she failed to present a cogent explanation to defend the decision while making herself look arrogant and defensive to reporters.

Many people distrusted her from the start over the illegal structures row. That distrust has deepened and is reflecting badly on the whole administration of justice itself.