Airport authorities broke regulations in a baggage handling incident involving then chief executive Leung Chun-ying and his daughter two years ago, a Hong Kong court ruled on Thursday.
High Court Judge Anderson Chow Ka-ming said the Airport Authority (AA) and the Aviation Security Co (AVSECO), the firm responsible for security at the Hong Kong International Airport, breached security regulations in place at the time, contrary to claims of the airport bosses.
Declaring that they had committed wrongdoing, the judge ordered the AA and AVESCO to pay legal costs to the plaintiff, a Cathay Dragon flight attendant who had initiated a judicial review over an airport security breach, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The judgment pertains to an incident that took place on the night of March 27, 2016, when airport staff delivered a bag to CY Leung’s daughter at a boarding gate after she forgot to carry it with her and left it behind in the departures hall.
Dubbing it the ‘bag-gate’ controversy, media reports at that time suggested that Leung pressured airport staff into delivering the bag to his daughter Leung Chung-yan, then 23, who was due to board a Cathay Pacific flight for San Francisco.
According to the reports, the then chief executive intervened to get the problem sorted out for his daughter, and that his wife, Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, also played a part in demanding special treatment.
Eventually, airport staff, who had initially insisted that Leung Chung-yan needed to get the bag herself and clear security with it, took the bag to the gate themselves after screening the item.
That was said to have been done under the AA’s instruction.
When the news surfaced in the media, the Leungs and airport authorities immediately found themselves embroiled in a controversy.
CY Leung and his family were accused of misusing their power, charges which they denied, while airport authorities were slammed for bypassing normal rules and offering special privilege to Leung’s daughter.
Under prevailing airport security rules at that time, a bag would not be permitted into the restricted zone unless it goes through security screening in the presence of the passenger.
But that rule was given the go-by for Leung Chung-yan, as an airport worker carried her luggage and handed it to her right near the boarding gate.
A Cathay Dragon flight attendant, Law Mei-mei, in June 2016 filed for a judicial review, claiming that the AA violated the rule that baggage checks must be carried out in the presence of the owner.
Delivering a verdict Thursday, judge Chow ruled in Law’s favor, saying that although the AA revised its cabin baggage-related regulation in April this year, the original rule was aimed at enhancing the efficiency of security checks and still applied at the time of the incident.
Under the amended rule, a passenger’s presence is only required if a suspicious piece of baggage needs to be screened a second time,
The judge also wondered if the Security Bureau tried to avoid lawsuits by approving the change of the rule before the hearing of the case.
It will be an injustice to the plaintiff if a court overrules the judicial review petition on the matter as requested by the defense, Chow said.
Following Chow’s verdict, the AA said it respects the court’s decision and that it will study the ruling.
It did not say whether it will change the amended rule back to its original version or offer an apology to the public.
CY Leung, meanwhile, accused Law of filing the judicial review petition out of political motivation. He stressed that he had not sought any special privilege for his daughter.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for the Cabin Crew Federation, Carol Ng Man-yee, said she fails to understand why Leung keeps pinning political motives to the petition bid, even after the “judgment clearly defines and explains what was right and what was wrong,” RTHK reports.
Ng urged the AA to reinstate its previous rule which required a passenger to be present when his or her carry-on baggage passes through security screening.
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