23 February 2019
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s aggressive intervention in the Legco probe into the UGL case could backfire. Photo: CNSA
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s aggressive intervention in the Legco probe into the UGL case could backfire. Photo: CNSA

How CY Leung is blowing things out of proportion over UGL probe

Pro-establishment lawmaker Holden Chow stepped down from an inquiry panel after coming under fire for allegedly collaborating with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to compromise the Legco investigation into the UGL saga.

Many people might have thought that with Chow’s resignation the controversy was over.

Leung has proven them all wrong. Hot on the heels of Holden Chow’s resignation as vice-chairman of the Legco probe panel came a renewed onslaught by CY Leung against Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong, a pan-democratic lawmaker who is being sued by the CE for defamation over his accusations against him in the UGL case.

In a public letter released by Leung on Sunday, he demanded that Kenneth Leung quit the Legco investigation panel immediately because the fact that he is both a defendant in an ongoing defamation lawsuit and a sitting member of the Legco inquiry constituted a serious conflict of interest.

If he continued to stay on the panel, the CE said, it would be like allowing him to play both “prosecutor and jury” at the same time.

CY Leung also said in his letter that Kenneth Leung’s accusations against the allegedly undeclared payments he had received from the Australian firm UGL and the subsequent propaganda campaign were a purely politically motivated plot perpetrated by Leung to mislead the public into believing that he was under investigation by the Inland Revenue Department over the alleged payments, when in fact he wasn’t at all.

To be fair, CY Leung’s concerns weren’t entirely unfounded, as Kenneth Leung might really be playing an overlapped role. Let’s say if A is complaining about the misconduct of B, then it is usually better for A not to be involved in the investigation of B. Kenneth Leung, who has shown no response so far, might also understand this impartiality issue of the probe panel.

In fact, the CE would have been totally justified in demanding Kenneth Leung’s resignation if he had made his demand in March when the probe panel was formed.

However, the problem is, the fact that CY Leung suddenly demanded Kenneth Leung’s resignation almost three months into the Legco investigation would inevitably raise doubts among the public over whether his real aim is actually to try to divert public attention from his interference, along with Holden Chow, in the ongoing Legco investigation and make sure that the outcome of the inquiry will be in his favor.

CY Leung’s edginess over the Legco investigation is indeed self-explanatory: with just a little more than one month left in his term of office, Leung may be desperate to wrap up the entire UGL controversy as soon as possible, or at least prevent it from continuing to snowball in order to avoid future troubles.

And in particular, he may very much want to eliminate whatever goods the pan-democrats might have got on him so that they can’t come after him anymore after his departure on July 1.

Yet, the problem is, the CE’s moves to intervene aggressively and heavy-handedly to make sure the Legco investigation would play out the way he wanted have actually backfired. Not only did his over-the-top moves fail to swing public opinion his way, but they have also reinforced public impression that he is a libel bully who has been throwing his weight around trying to interfere in the Legco probe at the expense of procedural justice.

Besides, CY Leung’s overreaction to the Legco probe is indeed totally unnecessary. It is because the probe panel itself is just a “toothless tiger”, as it has no power to subpoena anybody to testify before it. Nor is its final verdict legally binding at all, not to mention that even though Holden Chow is gone, the pro-establishment camp still holds the majority on the panel.

As such, CY Leung is simply blowing things out of proportion by acting so aggressively on this matter.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 22

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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