Legco committee considers invoking ‘special power’ to force CY Leung to submit to HK$50m fee probe
Pro-establishment lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun, who once opposed using the Powers and Privileges Ordinance to investigate Leung for possible corruption, now says it should be ‘seriously’ considered
In an about-turn, the head of a Legislative Council committee warned that lawmakers could invoke their “special power” to force former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying’s cooperation in an ongoing corruption investigation, that centres on a HK$50 million payment he received during his tenure.
Paul Tse Wai-chun, a pro-establishment lawmaker, stressed on a radio programme on Thursday the extent of the committee’s impasse with Leung, now vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top advisory body.
At a closed-door committee meeting the day before, Tse recounted how in the past eight months, Leung had refused to attend the committee’s hearings and “90 per cent of his replies” to their requests for documents were “unsatisfactory”.
Hong Kong Legco panel calls city’s ex-leader CY Leung ‘uncooperative’ as probe into HK$50m payment intensifies
Tse, who heads the 11-member select committee, had previously opposed motions from other lawmakers to use the Powers and Privileges Ordinance to investigate Leung.
But on Thursday, he suggested lawmakers “seriously consider” utilising the power available to them under the ordinance, where they can summon anyone before the Legislative Council or one of its committees to give or produce evidence that the person possesses or controls.
“We need to seriously consider using the Powers and Privileges Ordinance and make a decision after careful discussion,” Tse said.
However, a majority of the Legislative Council, which currently has 64 members as six were disqualified over improper oath-taking, would need to back this move.
“How can we conduct a comprehensive and thorough investigation without his full cooperation?” Tse said.
He added that, in addition to Leung’s lack of cooperation, “some corresponding official departments” and “organisations and overseas companies” had declined to attend hearings or hand in documents, because the select committee had no binding power over them.
Since February this year, the committee has investigated a payment of HK$50 million from Australian engineering firm UGL to Leung while he was the city’s leader from July 2012 to June 30 this year.
Leung had agreed to the payment in 2011 before his election as chief executive but did not declare it to his cabinet. He was then a director at real estate services firm DTZ, formerly listed in Britain. When UGL bought DTZ in 2011, it offered Leung the sum as part of a “non-compete, non-poach deal” so that Leung would not form or join a rival firm within two years.
The transaction came to light only in 2014 and Leung denied any wrongdoing, saying it was a common business arrangement and there was no conflict of interest with his current role.
But last November, at the behest of pan-democratic lawmakers, Legco set up a select committee with limited powers to look into the matter.
In May this year, a political storm erupted after Leung was found to have secretly asked pro-government legislator Holden Chow Ho-ding to amend a document on the direction and scope of the investigation.
Leung admitted to this but also openly promised that he would “fully cooperate with the committee’s inquiry ”. He also demanded a “comprehensive and thorough investigation”.
On Thursday, Tse said he was worried the select committee’s investigation would not yield fruit.
“Many officials may say that they will cooperate with our investigation but will they really do so when our committee is toothless?
“I now make an open appeal that anyone, in any position, should try their best to realise their promises and work with us since they have given their word and said that they have nothing to hide,” Tse said.
He also made a last-ditch appeal to Leung to “honour his promise” and cooperate in the committee’s investigation.
Select committee member Lam Cheuk-ting said that he had consulted the Legco secretariat, and for Tse’s plan to work, the committee should put forward a motion to Legco to seek the agreement of most members.
If so, the general council could authorise the select committee to exercise its powers under the Powers and Privileges Ordinance in its investigation of Leung.
But Lam’s fellow member Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu was doubtful that Legco would agree to usage of the ordinance, because pro-establishment lawmakers were now in the majority after the disqualification of six pan-democrats.
“If Tse is determined to gain authorisation from the general council, he should put up a motion and persuade his allies,” Yeung said.
In February 2012, before Leung’s election as Hong Kong’s leader, Legco authorised a select committee to use its powers under the ordinance to investigate Leung’s involvement as a jury member in the West Kowloon Reclamation Concept Plan Competition.