Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has demanded a reply from pro-democracy lawmaker Kenneth Leung, expressing intolerance towards the lawmaker’s silence over the UGL investigation.
“In the past two days, you did not answer the questions I raised of you, nor did you respond to media enquiries – I cannot tolerate this,” the chief executive said Sunday in an open letter to Kenneth Leung.
The letter was a fourth public statement within five days from the chief executive targeting Leung. He demanded the accountancy sector lawmaker be removed from a legislative committee in charge of probing a controversial HK$50 million payment he received from Australian firm UGL.
The chief executive argued that Leung was attempting to “put pressure” on the Inland Revenue Department by asking its head to investigate the UGL payout controversy. He attached in his open letter a photo dated October 20, 2014 from Leung’s Facebook to prove his point.
Leung’s latest response to the chief executive came last Thursday, when he said he would not quit the investigatory committee. He said his past statements questioning the outgoing leader’s tax burden were made based on his professional judgement as a tax consultant.
In response, the chief executive said on Sunday: “As a professional accountant, you have never pointed out which payment in my agreement [with UGL] should be subject to taxation. Besides, what tax? Salaries tax? Profits tax? Value-added tax? Estate duty?”
“This is an example of the deteriorating quality of Hong Kong politics,” he added.
Conflict of interest
The chief executive also alleged that Leung had a direct conflict of interest in discussing the scope of the investigation, because the pair are involved in a defamation lawsuit.
He sued Kenneth Leung in March – a first for Hong Kong – alleging that the lawmaker made defamatory remarks in claiming he could be under investigation by Hong Kong or foreign tax authorities.
The chief executive has repeatedly denied the accusation, saying that he has never been approached by any tax authorities.
He accused Leung of being “biased and prejudiced” and therefore unfit to serve on the probe body: “Do you think society will consider your words and action on the committee to be neutral and fair?”
The row came amid a scandal whereby Leung Chun-ying was found to have edited a document belonging to pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow, thus altering the scope of the legislative investigation into his UGL payout.
Chow later resigned from the committee and apologised for his “lack of political sensitivity,” though he insisted that he did not breach any rules or the law. Meanwhile, Leung criticised lawmakers for breaking confidentiality rules to expose the matter to the public.
Independent lawmaker Paul Tse, who chairs the investigatory committee, said Monday that he hopes Leung will attend meetings with the committee, which does not have the power to summon witnesses.
He added that Leung should have expressed his views to the Legislative Council Secretariat rather than privately to an individual member of the investigatory probe.
The pan-democrats have announced plans to table motions impeaching Leung and condemning Chow.