As controversy rages over the suspected illegal structures found in the villa of new Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, so far only senior counsel and former Hong Kong Bar Association vice-chairman Lawrence Lok Ying-kam has publicly called for her to step down.
Other legal practitioners and pro-democracy lawmakers are still pulling their punches, and have by far only demanded further explanation from Cheng rather than her resignation.
Legislative Council President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen has refused to give Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting permission to raise urgent questions over the scandal at today’s Legco meeting. It is almost certain that members of the opposition will grill Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor over the issue when she attends Legco’s Q&A session on Thursday.
Pan-democrats are expected to focus on the issue. How Lam will respond to their questions, and whether she can defuse the scandal, will be much awaited.
In fact, some sources in the government, after assessing the situation, have concluded that the scandal is unlikely to derail Cheng’s political office as long as she acts promptly to put things right, in such a way that the public would buy into the notion that the whole saga was just the result of her negligence and lack of political sensitivity.
However, if Cheng continues to be evasive about the incident and, in the worst-case scenario, tries to cover up her involvement in the suspected illegal structures in her house with one lie after another, the result could be serious.
If that happens, even members of the pro-establishment camp may not have the courage to speak up for Cheng in a high-profile manner. They certainly would not want the issue to undermine their prospects in the Legco by-elections in March.
Some government people have pointed out that although Cheng had said she was sorry for the inconvenience she had caused, her remarks, strictly speaking, didn’t constitute a formal apology to the public.
That said, they believe she may need to formally apologize to the public over the scandal sooner or later. However, whether the public would accept her apology might all depend on her luck.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 9
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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