Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is threatening to sue Apple Daily unless it retracts an editorial alleging corruption.
The Sept. 8 article said pursuing Leung for corruption should be made top priority, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Leung’s lawyers from Sit, Fung, Kwong and Shum sent a 14-page letter to Apple chief editor Chan Pui-man that the editorial be withdrawn.
They said it “falsely, viciously and maliciously accused Leung as being corrupt”.
The editorial relates to secret payment Leung received from Australian firm UGL that was reportedly agreed before he became chief executive and consummated after he took office.
The law firm said Apple insinuated that Leung took kickbacks from UGL and accused it of trying to deter him from seeking reelection in 2017.
It demanded a retraction within seven days or legal action will be taken. Also, it wants the newspaper to promise never to publish any related articles.
The UGL saga was first revealed in October 2014 at the height of the pro-democracy street protests.
Reports at the time said Leung received HK$50 million (US$6.45 million) in confidential payment from Australian engineering firm UGL as part of the latter’s purchase of Leung’s real estate firm DTZ.
Leung allegedly received the money after he became chief executive and paid no tax.
The letter cited a November 2014 decision by authorities in Britain, where DTZ had business ties, not to investigate.
Lo Fung, who wrote the editorial, said he will not be daunted in his efforts to inquire into improper official conduct.
It was Leung’s third legal notice to a newspaper since he assumed office.
In 2013, Leung demanded the retraction of an article by Joseph Lian in the Hong Kong Economic Journal, claiming it was defamatory.
The article accused him of triad links.
In 2014, his lawyers sent a letter to Australia’s Fairfax Media to try to stop the publication of the UGL story.
Meanwhile, Chan said she will hire lawyers to handle the matter, adding Leung’s contention that the article was politically motivated is “ridiculous”.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association accused Leung of trying to muzzle the media and demanded the notice be withdrawn.
Ivan Choy, a Chinese University of Hong Kong senior lecturer, said he does not expect Apple Daily to comply with Leung’s demands.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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