Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is suing lawmaker Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong for defamation, after the latter said the outgoing Hong Kong leader is being investigated by authorities for having accepted secret payment from an Australian engineering company without making any declaration of interests in the deal.
The Chief Executive’s Office confirmed on Monday night that CY Leung’s lawyers have filed a writ at the High Court on his behalf, but did not elaborate, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Kenneth Leung, who represents the accounting profession, said last week he received a letter on Thursday from CY Leung’s lawyers asking him to respond by Monday noon to questions regarding the legislator’s remarks to reporters.
The lawmaker said last Wednesday the chief executive has been under probe by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and tax authorities both at home and overseas over the secret payment from the Australian firm UGL.
Leung rejected the accusations, saying they were totally unfounded.
The UGL saga was first revealed in October 2014, at the height of the Occupy protests, when Australian media reported that CY Leung received HK$50 million in confidential payment from the Australian engineering firm as part of the latter’s purchase of Leung’s real estate firm DTZ.
CY Leung allegedly received the money after he became chief executive and paid no taxes.
Last year the chief executive threatened to sue Apple Daily for an editorial that said pursuing him for corruption should be made a top priority.
An unnamed source in the government said CY Leung decided to bring a lawsuit against the lawmaker in order to protect his reputation as he knows very well whether or not he is being investigated.
The lawsuit was filed and paid for by the chief executive himself, the source added.
Some observers suspected CY Leung’s move was aimed at removing any obstacle that may prevent him from being named vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
After Leung was named a CPPCC member last month, news reports said he could also become a vice chairman of China’s highest political advisory body.
However, 26 pro-democracy lawmakers sending a letter to CPPCC chairman Yu Zhengsheng last Wednesday to express their opposition.
The source said it is wrong to link the lawsuit to the rumor about his being appointed as CPPCC vice chairman.
CY Leung’s action, which makes him the first Hong Kong chief executive to sue a lawmaker for defamation, has caused concerns.
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang assailed CY Leung for filing the lawsuit, saying: “Shame on him”.
Ma Ngok, an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he is worried the chief executive may have set a very bad precedent and made Hong Kong similar to Singapore, where the government has sued dissidents for libel and clamped down on the freedom of speech.
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]