Hong Kong’s top official was grilled by lawmakers from across the political spectrum on Thursday over a top-level staffing controversy at the city’s anti-corruption agency, but he dismissed their allegations about his involvement as “speculation”. At his last question-and-answer session before the Legislative Council ends its term, five lawmakers pressed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on the recent turmoil at the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Hong Kong’s ICAC postpones annual dinner after staff pull out en masse They raised concerns about the agency’s reputation and reminded him of its contribution to the rule of law and the business-friendly environment. Their questions centred on the surprise removal of Rebecca Li Bo-lan, acting head of the ICAC’s operations department and one of its most experienced investigators. ICAC Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu took sole responsibility this week for deciding to force Li out, offering her a de facto demotion to her previous role. But the lawmakers highlighted the Democratic Party’s allegations that Leung had engineered Li’s downfall over an ICAC probe into his receipt of a HK$50 million payment from Australian firm UGL. “You have been building safeguards in the ICAC for the benefit of your own case. Can we still be confident that the ICAC is independent?” Democrat James To Kun-sun said. To pointed out that Leung had failed to deliver his promise to amend bribery laws and make it a criminal offence for the chief executive to solicit or accept any advantage without the permission of a statutory independent committee. The lawmaker also noted that Leung had appointed Maria Tam Wai-chu, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, to head the ICAC’s operations review committee, even though Tam, To said, “had a serious political inclination”. The committee oversees all ICAC investigations. The chief executive rejected the lawmaker’s argument as “speculation”. “We shouldn’t publicly discuss appointment issues relating to the ICAC and government departments,” Leung said, again denying involvement. When To declared that Leung had “shaken public confidence in the ICAC” and “brought shame to China”, Leung retorted: “This is unfair to me and to the whole of the ICAC.” CY Leung insists he did not take any part in decision-making to remove ICAC’s Rebecca Li The Democrats earlier claimed that Leung’s office and the Executive Council secretariat had refused multiple ICAC requests for documents to determine whether he had declared payments he received from UGL in 2012 and 2013. Leung refused to comment, citing legal restrictions due to the ongoing ICAC investigation. Pro-establishment lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun disagreed with Leung that neither Li’s termination nor his own case was beyond public discussion. “This is not true. Your case is public knowledge. You shouldn’t hide behind the law,” he said Some documents pertaining to the case, including a contract signed by Leung detailing the payment conditions, were posted online in 2014 by Australian media. Leung maintained on Thursday it was only a resignation arrangement barring him from joining a business competitor of the surveying firm he worked for before becoming the city’s leader.