Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the pan-democrats have accused each other of launching politically motivated attacks over the recent UGL probe scandal.
The row came days after Leung was found to have edited a document belonging to pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow, thus altering the scope of the legislative investigation into the controversial HK$50 million payout he received from Australian firm UGL.
He has also made five public statements within six days urging accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung to quit the committee, on the basis that the lawmaker had said Leung could be under investigation by tax authorities and the Independent Commission Against Corruption – an allegation rejected by Leung.
“We must stop the use of law enforcement agents to attack government officials through civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution,” Leung said on Sunday. He sued Kenneth Leung in March accusing him of defamation.
The chief executive also complained of Kenneth Leung’s silence over the controversy. On Monday, the lawmaker – alongside other pan-democrats – held a media session criticising Leung Chun-ying for targeting individual lawmakers and “meddling in legislative affairs.”
Legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok said the pan-democrats will not be dissuaded by Leung’s attacks and legal threats. “We dare you to sue all of us,” he said.
“Your nearly lunatic behaviour will only make people believe you are afraid of being investigated, that you are trying to conceal something,” he said. “If you have nothing to hide, present your case at the committee meetings.”
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said people might be deterred from filing complaints against public officers out of fear of legal repercussion.
“I think that as the subject of the probe, CY Leung should refrain from commenting on the case and exerting pressure on law enforcement agents and on complainants,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Leung said he could not comment further on the case owing to his defamation lawsuit. He added that he would not spend more time responding to the UGL probe: “As a lawmaker, my role is to serve the general public.”
Leung Chun-ying responded to the media session within three hours. “Kenneth Leung did not answer my questions – including questions unrelated to the lawsuit. I think we all know why,” he said on his blog.
He said it is not fair to say that he should not fear an investigation if he is innocent: “These so-called legislative investigations can be initiated as long as 20 lawmakers agree to them. If 20 pro-establishment lawmakers started a probe into Kenneth Leung or used the Inland Revenue Department to damage his reputation, would he accept it?”
He added: “Everyone – including government officials – has the right to protect their reputation.”
His top media officer, Andrew Fung Wai-kwong, also wrote in newspaper AM730 on Monday, questioning Kenneth Leung’s failure to state exactly the tax burden the chief executive is suspected of owing. “This is clearly a politically motivated attack,” he said.
Independent lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun, who chairs the investigatory committee, said it was not necessary to make a pro-democracy lawmaker quit the probe body to balance out Chow’s resignation.
A number of pro-Beijing veteran politicians have criticised Leung Chun-ying and Holden Chow. Former lawmaker Selina Chow of the pro-business Liberal Party slammed Leung for “pointing the finger at people who are asking these questions on behalf of the public.”
The pro-democracy camp plans to table a motion to impeach Leung and condemn Chow next month.