Hong Kong justice chief Teresa Cheng survives two no-confidence motions amid criticism from lawmakers
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah continues to face pressure over illegal structures found at her properties
Hong Kong’s embattled justice minister survived two motions of no confidence on Monday even as lawmakers slammed her over the discovery of illegal extensions to her properties and her role in disqualifying a pro-democracy candidate for the city’s legislature.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah revealed in a Legislative Council panel meeting that she had been directly involved in her department’s legal advice to the returning officer from the Electoral Affairs Commission who barred Agnes Chow Ting from running in the March by-election.
Lawmakers voted down the two no-confidence motions against Cheng, 7-10.
The opposition pan-democratic camp will table another motion on Wednesday to summon Cheng to Legco to testify over the illegal structures at her properties, but will have to win over at least eight pro-establishment rivals to pass the motion.
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Lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun of the pro-government Business and Professionals Alliance, which has seven seats in Legco, said she personally would oppose the motion.
“Ministers come to Legco all the time and lawmakers can ask them whatever questions they want,” Leung said. “I don’t think we need to use this way to summon [Cheng].”
One of Monday’s motions was tabled by Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, who said Cheng’s handling of the illegal structure scandal proved that she was not suitable to lead the Justice Department.
Another motion, raised by Civic Party legislator Dennis Kwok, accused Cheng’s department of providing “wrong legal opinions” to the returning officer, leading to Chow being disqualified and deprived of the right to stand for election.
“This council member believes the secretary for justice’s performance is extremely unprofessional,” Kwok stated in the motion.
Chow, 21, was barred from standing in the March 11 by-election on the grounds that her party, Demosisto, had called for self-determination for Hong Kong. The returning officer said self-determination deviated from the one country, two systems policy.
Cheng asked the public to trust her experience and professionalism, insisting it was the returning officer’s own decision to disqualify Chow.
The justice minister refused to answer opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching’s question as to whether Demosisto as a party should be banished for its political stance.
Legislators also slammed Cheng for the illegal extensions in her houses, over which she has rejected calls to step down.
“I sincerely apologise once again to the public,” Cheng said. “I hope citizens and legislators can give me a chance to prove that I will do my job well.”
But she refused to say whether she knew about the unauthorised extensions before she received a government notice about them earlier this month.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said: “You ask people to forgive you, but you purge young people as far as possible for what they said. Will you feel ashamed when facing these young people?”
Liberal Party lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan asked whether Cheng could handle her job well if she could not even deal properly with personal matters.
Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said: “However you apologise, you will always be a justice minister who knows the law to break the law. Would you, as a Hong Kong citizen, trust such a minister?”