On Sept. 26, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying issued a legal letter to Apple Daily over an editorial it published on Sept. 8, demanding that it retract all the allegations of corruption levelled against him in that piece or else he may take legal action.
While I don’t think Apple Daily is likely to yield to Leung’s pressure and do as he said, I do hope our Chief Executive can clarify whether he was sending that letter in his individual capacity or in his capacity as the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.
He should also make it clear who is going to foot the legal bill, whether he himself or the government, if he decides to take the case to court, in order to allay public concerns.
I believe Leung issued that letter at this particular moment in order to defuse the UGL scandal as soon as possible before it snowballs into a major political crisis that may threaten his re-election.
That is why in that 13-page letter, his attorney quoted the entire speech made by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor during a session of the Legislative Council earlier this year explaining why her boss didn’t violate any rules over the UGL saga, in an attempt to give the public “a comprehensive understanding” of the case.
However, I do not think the letter has fully answered the question as to whether the Chief Executive had violated the law or done anything inappropriate in the UGL case.
The letter didn’t address the fundamental issue of why, almost two years into its probe of the UGL scandal, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is still unable to tell the public about the progress of the investigation.
To make things worse, Rebecca Li Bo-lan, the deputy commissioner of the ICAC who had been in charge of the investigation, suddenly resigned shortly after her mysterious demotion back in July.
Even more dramatic is that her successor, Ricky Yau Shu-chun, also abruptly tendered his resignation just 12 days after he had assumed office, and then, perhaps after some intense arm-twisting, surprised everybody again by taking back his resignation just within hours of announcement of his departure from the agency.
All these unusual events point to one thing: some powerful force behind the scene might have interfered in the key personnel appointments of the ICAC and both Li and Yau’s sudden resignation might have had something to do with the UGL investigation.
Unfortunately, CY Leung’s letter has failed to provide any answer to that, and is therefore unable to clear him of the suspicion of having overstepped his authority to stop the investigation.
It is almost for certain that pro-democracy lawmakers will come after Leung over both the UGL case and the ICAC saga.
It is pretty likely that they may call him even more insulting names than the Apple Daily editorial did.
Is our Chief Executive also going to send every single one of them a legal letter demanding an apology?
On the other hand, even if the ICAC finally decides not to press any criminal charges against our Chief Executive over the UGL case, it doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t done anything inappropriate in handling his contract with the Australian firm.
Not having broken the law doesn’t mean you are morally good enough as a political leader.
As the man in charge of this city, our Chief Executive is expected to live up to the most rigorous moral standards, and it will be so much for the credibility of our administration if the person who leads it fails to meet the basic standards of integrity and honorable conduct.
That said, I urge the ICAC to publicize the results of its investigation over the UGL case as soon as possible.
And I also hope that the Department of Justice can explain to the public in detail how it is going to follow up on the results of that investigation, in order to reassure the public that our rule of law is still able to stand the most rigorous political test.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 5
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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