Hong Kong Legco chief defends clawing back ousted members’ cash
Leung says review of similar legal cases abroad suggests taking back HK$11 million would be acceptable
Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said that legal cases abroad suggest that the legislature should claim up to HK$11 million in pay and allowances given to four opposition legislators whom the High Court disqualified last month.
But he added that the Legislative Council Commission was seeking outside legal advice and would make a legally sound decision.
Four legislators – Nathan Law Kwun-chung, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu Chung-yim – were unseated on July 14 for failing to take their members’ oaths solemnly. They now face possible claims by Legco for the return of up to HK$11 million in pay and allowances.
In an interview with former Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing yesterday, Andrew Leung said: “The government gave us the money and we gave it to lawmakers... so if the court said they should not enjoy lawmakers’ status, should they enjoy the money?
“It is a relatively difficult decision to make, and we have seen rulings overseas that [the money] was claimed... But those rulings might not be completely applicable to Hong Kong. That’s why we are hiring senior counsels from outside to look at the legal grounds.”
Law said he was unworried by Leung mentioning foreign rulings. He said: “Leung has never said the legislature would not claim the money, but our stance remains that it would be unjust to claim our salaries and spending on appliances... while recognising what we did, including the votes we cast and our attendance since October.”
Andrew Leung also said he hoped officials could offer “more explanations” to legislators as they meet again next Tuesday to discuss a controversial plan to allow mainland law to be enforced at the Hong Kong end of the long-awaited high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.
“Officials and lawmakers should make use of the summer to do more,” the president said.
Under the joint checkpoint plan, mainland officers will enjoy almost full jurisdiction over a mainland-leased quarter of the West Kowloon terminus.
Local officials said that would not breach the Basic Law as the leased area would be regarded as outside the city’s boundary, but the pan-democrats are unconvinced. They have formed a coalition to derail the arrangement, saying “co-location” of checkpoints would compromise Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor previously said the relevant legislation would have to be approved before the HK$84.4 billion rail link opens in the third quarter of next year.
Leung said on Friday that he would give legislators enough time to debate on the legislation, which will be tabled by the end of the year or early next year.