The perfect timing with which the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) arrested lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung on a charge of misconduct in public office suggests it could be part of a carefully planned plot to sabotage Leung’s re-election campaign and, perhaps, his entire career in politics.
In fact Leung’s case has proven to be a lot more destructive to the pan-democrats than any other political onslaught mounted by the pro-establishment camp in the past, as it has put the pan-democrats in a very embarrassing position.
If they openly stand up for Leung and slam the ICAC for engaging in political persecution, it is likely that they could be accused of holding a double standard when it comes to the integrity of a political figure.
It might even raise doubts as to whether they themselves have also accepted political donations from media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying.
However, if they turn their back on Leung, they could risk coming under fire for betraying their comrade.
So either way, the pan-democrats lose.
Frankly, it has practically been an open secret that all major political parties and politicians in Hong Kong, left or right, have been taking money from either Beijing, “hostile western powers” or big businesses.
It is not against the law for lawmakers to take money from donors, as long as they do it by the book and declare it to the Legislative Council Secretariat.
However, if you are caught red-handed taking money and not declaring it according to the rules, chances are the ICAC won’t leave you alone, as in Leung’s case.
Now the damage has been done, so the single most urgent task lying before the pan-democrats right now is how to defuse the crisis and prevent it from snowballing.
My advice to them is: go home and think carefully whether they have made the same mistake as Leung has.
If they have, then just come clean publicly and declare to Legco any unrevealed donation before the ICAC finds out and opens an investigation.
It is because failure to make a declaration immediately after you took the money would only constitute negligence, but failure to declare it at all until the authorities find out may constitute a criminal offense.
As a matter of fact, Long Hair could have already faced the same criminal charge two years ago if it had not been for the leniency of the Department of Justice, which eventually dropped charges against him because it didn’t have substantial evidence to prove that he committed the offense “wilfully”, one of the 5 key necessary legal grounds required by the court to convict a person of misconduct in public office.
It is a legal precedent set by Justice Sir Anthony Frank Mason back in 2002 in a case in which a former manager of the Government Property Agency was convicted of this charge.
Unfortunately, this time, it is the ICAC that is in charge of Leung’s case, and apparently it will go to any lengths to nail him this time.
Perhaps it is time for the pan-democrats to reflect on whether they should continue to hold a double standard with regard to their opponents when it comes to the issue of integrity.
Whenever a government official or member of the pro-establishment camp is found to have received preferential treatment, the pan-democrats often gang up on him or her and demand a criminal investigation.
However, when one of their own is found in the same situation and prosecuted, they automatically label it as “political persecution”.
The vast majority of voters in Hong Kong are fed up with the pan-democrats’ hypocrisy.
They will definitely be doomed in the upcoming Legco election if they still believe that the people of Hong Kong are so naive that they will continue to buy into their nonsense.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 28.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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