Chief executive denies any part in removal of top Hong Kong graft-buster
Pan-democrats accuse Leung Chun-ying of interference linked to probe into a HK$50 million payment he received from an Australian firm
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has dismissed allegations he was behind the removal of the city’s top anti-corruption investigator.
Days after Rebecca Li Bo-lan – the first woman to head the powerful investigative unit of the Independent Commission Against Corruption – was removed, Leung was accused by pan-democratic politicians yesterday of interfering because he is the subject of an anti-graft probe.
But last night the Chief Executive’s Office issued a rebuttal, denying having a role in Li’s removal. But the office did not respond to allegations that documents sought by investigators looking into a misconduct complaint against Leung had not been handed over.
The investigation centred on whether Leung had disclosed to the Executive Council a HK$50 million payment from Australian firm UGL and was cited by the Democratic Party as a possible reason why the No 2 ICAC official was removed last week.
In an emailed response from his office, Leung said issues on senior positions were “an internal matter” for the ICAC. “While the chief executive would be notified in advance, he would not take part in the decision-making or give any opinion,” it read.
By not giving a reason for its decision, the ICAC has opened itself to speculation of outside influence. ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu told Ming Pao that anyone suggesting this would be “thinking too much”.
But Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan called on the ICAC to fully explain the move, saying it should not treat itself as a private company.
Citing an ICAC source, Ho said the investigators had tried repeatedly in vain in the past year to obtain evidence from the Executive Council secretariat that would show whether Leung had or had not made the declaration.
“The ICAC’s progress has been hugely hindered,” he said, adding that he would press the chief executive to address this issue in Legislative Council sessions.
Leung’s office said he would “cooperate wherever necessary” but would not comment on the work of law enforcement agencies.
Democratic Party member Lam Cheuk-ting, an ex-ICAC investigator, questioned what could have changed the ICAC’s position on Li’s competence just a year after she was appointed. He said the mood among ICAC staffers was pessimistic.
“They call it a dark era, because the reshuffle is full of questions,” Lam said. “This is especially strange in light of Li’s apparently flawless track record.”