Former secretary for the civil service Joseph Wong Wing-ping has called for a thorough investigation into a controversial HK$50 million payment Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying received from Australian firm UGL.
“At this point, it is futile for Hongkongers to press CY Leung on the UGL incident. We can only count on investigators from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the Department of Justice to uphold the rule of law selflessly and fearlessly,” Wong said in a newspaper column on Monday.
“We can only hope that they will make a prosecution decision that meets the standards of Hong Kong’s rule of law, and their own conscience.”
Leung’s image has been tarnished by the UGL scandal after he was found to have failed to declare his interest over the payment. He received the money after he became chief executive.
Leung said he did not need to declare an interest because the payment arose from a “termination agreement” that he signed with UGL before he was elected. He also said he did not perform any active duties for UGL after signing the non-compete agreement.
But Wong said Leung’s explanation was inadequate, because he indeed received a payment from someone other than the Hong Kong government, and was required to perform contractual duties.
“Whether this type of agreement is exempted from the Executive Council rules of interest declaration is not a matter for Leung – as an interested party – to decide,” he said.
The former civil service head said that a civil servant would normally be considered to have committed misconduct in public office and possibly face criminal charges in a similar situation.
“How can Hongkongers allow the chief executive – who governs a population of seven million – to have much lower ethical standards and degrees of integrity than a normal civil servant?” Wong said.
‘Abuse the system’
Some pan-democrats have also urged the ICAC to investigate the UGL incident and a recent scandal whereby Leung was found to have edited a document of pro-Beijing lawmaker Holden Chow in order to influence a legislative investigation over the payment.
On Monday, Leung’s information coordinator Andrew Fung Wai-kwong wrote in Headine Daily accusing Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting of abusing the ICAC reporting system.
Lam is a former officer at the ICAC and a vocal critic of the government over corruption concerns. Fung said: “Lam uses the ICAC to target officials and pro-establishment figures. He has never reported any pan-democrats to the ICAC or criticised them in this regard. This is double standard.”
“His action seriously affects public confidence in the ICAC reporting system.”
Fung was a member of the Democratic Party before joining Leung’s administration in 2013. He has been criticised for using office hours to quarrel with the pan-democrats and online commenters on social media.
The pan-democrats have proposed impeaching Leung and condemning Holden Chow over the UGL scandal. They said the legislature will discuss the motions on Friday at the earliest.
Leung is set to leave office at the end of this month.