20 February 2019
Holden Chow insists he has done nothing wrong but the evidence shows otherwise. Changes to the document (inset) were made at Leung's suggestion. Photo:, rthk
Holden Chow insists he has done nothing wrong but the evidence shows otherwise. Changes to the document (inset) were made at Leung's suggestion. Photo:, rthk

How ‘documentgate’ adds to rotten HK governance

There’s do doubt that governance in Hong Kong has deteriorated since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule 20 years ago.

The government has failed to address the public needs in terms of people’s livelihood and the conduct and integrity of politicians in both the establishment and the pro-Beijing camps have failed to meet the high standards required to be Hong Kong leaders.

And now this. On Tuesday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow met the press to further elaborate on the so-called “documentgate”.

Surprisingly, neither apologized; they did not think their behavior was wrong.

A Legislative Council committee investigating a HK$50 million payout Leung received from Australian firm UGL was notified during Monday’s session that changes were made to the document submitted by Chow.

The changes broadened the scope of the inquiry by adding questions such as whether the UGL agreement is authentic and whether Leung should have declared the payment to a judge.

The additional questions might give Leung an advantage by slowing down the investigation and creating more opportunities for critics to question its results.

Leung denied interfering with Legco’s affairs, saying it was his right to express his personal opinion on the scope of the investigation.

Leung said he told Chow that the investigation should be made as wide as possible, even if it means going beyond the powers of the select committee, in order to address all of the concerns raised.

When asked by reporters why he didn’t write to the Legco Secretariat instead, Leung merely said he has the right to suggest changes.

Then Leung tried to shift public attention from the leak of the document. He called for another Legco investigation into who leaked it.

These developments show that Leung continues to be troubled by the UGL saga even as he insists that he did nothing wrong.

He could have left the matter in the court of public opinion instead of meddling in Legco’s affairs.

It seems Leung has put his own interests on top of the public interest to avoid a black mark on his record.

Chow, a legal professional, disappointed the public when he said he did nothing wrong in allowing Leung to edit the document before sending it Legco.

No Legco rules were breached when he agreed to Leung consolidating their ideas into a document, Chow said, adding that they had agreed in advance to the changes based on Leung’s comments.

Chow even cited a court case to show his “partnership” with Leung was fine. He said lawyers for the plaintiff and defendant would meet before a court hearing to agree the common facts of the case.

However, Chow is wrong. The lawmakers on the select committee represent the public in investigating potential wrongdoing by Leung. The committee plays the role of jury while Leung, in this case, is the defendant.

There is no court in Hong Kong that will allow the lawyers for the defendant to discuss the scope of the hearing with the judge.

Echoing Leung’s request to investigate the leak of the document, Chow condemned democrats for disclosing the confidential information. He forgot that the document had been posted on the Legco website for public review.

All of this shows that Leung and Chow have no idea how to perform their duties appropriately.

Leung abused his power by interfering with Legco; Chow forgot his power comes from being an elected official. Both failed to perform their duties in a just and transparent way.

It’s right for the opposition camp to report the case to the Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate whether Leung and Chow acted with conflict of interest.

At the very least, the two owe the public a formal and sincere apology.

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EJ Insight writer

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