Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung has said that the Department of Justice (DoJ) will consider responding at an “appropriate time” over its controversial decision not to prosecute former chief executive Leung Chun-ying.
Last week, the DoJ said it did not have sufficient evidence to charge Leung for corruption and misconduct in public office over his HK$50 million payment from Australian firm UGL, without seeking outside legal advice. The decision not to prosecute – explained in a short press release – sparked criticism from lawmakers, as one threatened to file a legal challenge if the DoJ refused to explain further.
Leung was criticised for receiving a non-compete and non-poach payment from UGL in 2012 and 2013, after it acquired UK firm DTZ. Leung was DTZ’s director in 2011, before he ran for the role of chief executive. Part of the payments were made during Leung’s tenure as Hong Kong’s leader, but they were not revealed to the public until a media exposé in 2014.
Some pro-democracy lawmakers have said they will host a march on December 23 in protest of DoJ’s decision.
Cheung, acting as Hong Kong leader for Carrie Lam who was on her duty visit to Beijing, said ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday that the DoJ and the Independent Commission Against Corruption have issued detailed statements, and the former has replied to written questions from several media outlets.
Cheung cited Article 63 of the Basic Law as saying that the DoJ shall control criminal prosecutions, free from any interference.
“I believe the DoJ has heard opinions from the public. It will consider how to give additional comments, and will respond at an appropriate time,” Cheung said.
Asked when will be an “appropriate time,” Cheung said he could not answer for the DoJ.
“The DoJ has said clearly that there was not enough evidence,” he said. “We have to respect the opinion and the decision from the DoJ. But it will depend on the DoJ’s decision whether to further explain the matter and give more information.”
Eric Cheung, the principal lecturer of the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law, said last week that the DoJ “deviated from established rules and procedures” in its statement.
The DoJ’s statement on Leung only provided the conclusion but did not give legal analysis, Cheung said. He compared it unfavourably to a similar 17-page statement in 2003 which detailed a decision not to prosecute former financial secretary Antony Leung.