The Department of Justice (DoJ) announced last week that it won’t press charges against former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying over his alleged undeclared acceptance of HK$50 million from Australian firm UGL, arguing that there was insufficient evidence.
The DoJ immediately drew widespread criticism for only issuing a brief statement to explain its decision and for failing to seek independent legal opinion about the case.
As a result, there were mounting calls on the department to provide a more detailed explanation, and also for the Legislative Council to summon Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah to appear before it to explain why the DoJ decided to drop the case.
Still, the DoJ insisted that it has no further details to give on the matter.
Meanwhile, lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who chairs the Legco Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services, told media last Thursday that although the panel is going to discuss the issue during its upcoming meeting scheduled for this Wednesday, the chances of members reaching a majority decision to invite Cheng to appear before the panel over the UGL case were not high.
It is said that the prevailing view among the pro-establishment members of the panel is that they simply see no need for the justice secretary to explain to the public why she decided not to press charges against CY Leung.
It is because if Cheng offered an explanation to the public on its prosecution decision this time, it would set a pretty bad precedent, so much so the DoJ might have to explain each and every of its legal decisions to the public in the future.
As pro-establishment lawmakers now account for 12 out of the total 19 members of the Legco legal panel, the nays would certainly have it on the issue of summoning Cheng.
The whole saga would probably have ended right there, had it not been for an unexpected remark made by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last Saturday.
Before setting out for Beijing, Lam said she believed the Secretary for Justice would be very willing to further explain the Leung-UGL decision later if it was necessary.
Lam’s take was echoed by Executive Council convener Bernard Charnwut Chan the following day.
It seems all of a sudden their remarks have made things turn 180 degrees around.
Subsequently, some members in the pro-establishment camp have revealed that they would no longer say no to summoning Cheng to appear before the Legco panel, given that the chief executive has “spoken up” on the matter and set the tone.
As things stand, the DoJ was yet to respond, as of Sunday, as to whether its chief is willing to go to Legco to explain her decision on the UGL case.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 17
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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