Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah declined to attend a regular meeting of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services on Monday.
The development came as Cheng faced more questions over illegal structures at properties owned by her, accusations that have called her integrity into question.
If the house saga continues to drag on, it won’t be to the liking of the Hong Kong government and the pro-establishment camp.
As to why members of the pro-establishment camp didn’t rush to Cheng’s defense when she was besieged by pan-democrats after the outbreak of the scandal, some in the pro-Beijing camp admitted that Beijing’s liaison office had approached them and asked them to rally behind Cheng.
However, they said they were dragging their feet over speaking up for the beleaguered justice secretary because they weren’t sure about how the saga was going to play out in the coming days.
In particular, they were worried that there could be some other potentially dangerous undercurrents regarding the scandal which are yet to surface, and which may cause further problems in the future, such as whether the bank that provided the mortgage for Cheng’s villa might take legal action against her because of the illegal structures.
Given all these variables and uncertainties, they believed it would be in their best interests to sit on the sidelines for the time being and avoid taking any stance on the matter.
Besides, members of the pro-establishment camp added, the way Cheng has handled the crisis has been nothing but awful and lousy. Also, given the large scale of her husband’s businesses that makes it hard to obtain relevant information, it has simply undercut whatever attempt the pro-Beijing groups might want to make to help the couple out.
Some in the establishment camp have also expressed deep concerns over the potential implications of the Cheng scandal in relation to the March 11 Legco by-elections, since the pan-democrats will almost certainly grill the pro-Beijing candidates about their position on the Cheng issue during election debate forums.
Pro-establishment candidates will have to be very careful not to alienate voters while pulling their punches on Cheng, a balancing act that could indeed prove very difficult.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 20
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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