Public Eye

Outcry at C.Y. Leung shows it’s Hong Kong media ethics, not freedom, we should worry about

UGL is no Watergate, and wanting to impeach the chief executive when he only has a month left in office is pure grandstanding by the pan-democrats, says Michael Chugani

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 8:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 8:58pm

Let me ask this question of all opposition legislators: are you now or have you ever been bankrolled by media boss Jimmy Lai Chee-ying?

Actually, I have no intention of asking such an unethically loaded question. I pose it just to express disgust at an equally unethical question Commercial Radio’s morning talk show hosts suggested last week.

They discussed asking every establishment camp lawmaker investigating the UGL controversy if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had secretly approached them like he did with DAB legislator Holden Chow Ho-ding.

Such McCarthyism has no place in our politics

Such McCarthyism has no place in our politics. The hosts even tainted New People’s Party legislator Eunice Yung Hoi-yan as having possibly colluded with Leung.

When party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee told the hosts the next morning the allegation was baseless, they said they would temporarily believe her until they questioned Yung. Who appointed them judge and jury? If they have proof, show it. If not, shut up.

There’s much talk of an erosion of our media freedom. What’s eroding is our media ethics, not freedom. Every media organisation played up Leung’s secret contact with Chow to influence the inquiry. So much for our media freedom dying.

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It is not my job nor do I want to defend Leung or Chow. But those trying to turn UGL into Watergate should try living in a democracy. It is no big deal for a president or prime minister to shape the legislative agenda through party members. Hong Kong has no ruling party but the establishment camp is a de facto one.

Leung says he should have a say in the investigation’s scope since he is the target. Maybe, but he should have done it openly through proper channels, not furtively through Chow.

Either way, UGL is no Watergate. Wanting to impeach him when he only has a month left in office is pure grandstanding.

Australian firm UGL gave Leung a HK$50 million non-compete payment when it bought a company where Leung was a director. Leung handwrote a condition the deal should not create a conflict of interest if he got elected as chief executive.

His crime? Not reporting the payment to his cabinet and using Chow to influence the inquiry.

Compare that to US President Donald Trump’s many conflict of interest excesses. Yet our stalwarts of democracy make regular pilgrimages to the US to worship the Trump administration. How laughable is that?