By Jeffie Lam & Chris Lau
This article first appeared in South China Morning Post on 14 May 2018
Link to original article: HERE
Legislature cannot be a ‘paper tiger’, its president says.
The Hong Kong legislature has decided to take legal action against ousted lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung to recover his full salary and expenses totalling HK$2.75 million (US$350,300) after he ignored an earlier compromise to return part of the sum.
The latest development came almost a month after Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen floated a deal that would not require four ousted pro-democracy lawmakers to pay back their full salaries if they agreed to return a smaller amount of operating funds or expenses prepaid to them and items such as laptops. Their salaries, staff wages and prepaid expenses ranged from HK$2.7 million to HK$3.1 million for eight months.
Leung, Lau Siu-lai, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Edward Yiu Chung-yim were unseated last year following a legal bid by local officials after a ruling by Beijing that they had taken their oaths of office improperly.
Andrew Leung said the Legco Commission, responsible for the body’s administrative matters, had decided to take Leung to court after a meeting on Monday.
“The decision is very simple. We offered a solution to settle, and we gave a deadline,” he said, adding that the ousted lawmaker “did not even respond” and that it was “up to the commission to decide what to do next”.
Two other disqualified lawmakers – Lau and Yiu – had already returned part of the funds, HK$310,000 each, he noted. Law had pledged to return the amount by the deadline.
The Legco president also dismissed allegations that the commission was ignoring the government’s earlier advice: that the bill could be written off by the legislature if it failed to recover the money.
“If we do nothing, that means from now on all the commission’s decisions will only be a paper tiger,” he said. “We have no choice but to seek legal action to recover all the money.”
But Leung Kwok-hung on Monday said the commission’s decision had left him in shock and that he should not be required to return the money as his appeal against the court decision disqualifying him was still pending.
“I have yet to complete my appeal, so why am I being chased for the money?” he asked. “You can chase [Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching] because they lost their appeals,” he added, referring to two ousted pro-independence lawmakers who failed to recover their seats after appealing to the city’s top court.
“Are you saying that I would definitely lose? If I paid up now, but I ended up winning the appeal, then what?”
Civic Party lawmaker and commission member Dennis Kwok described the decision as “irrational and ruthless”. He accused the commission’s pro-establishment members of making a political decision.
Kwok, a barrister, argued it should only take legal action after Leung settles his appeal, arguing the ex-lawmaker could apply for an interim injunction against Legco’s legal bid and could secure a court’s approval.
Last month, the commission decided not to demand a full refund of the ex-lawmakers’ salaries and expenses, instead seeking a small portion of the funds after legal advice suggested the quartet had a strong common law defence. The four had carried out their work for nine months before the High Court stripped them of their seats on July 14 last year.
The commission found it unwise and a waste of taxpayers’ money to spend tens of millions of dollars demanding a full refund.
Separately, Andrew Leung said the commission had issued open letters condemning four pro-democracy lawmakers – Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, Gary Fan Kwok-wai, Claudia Mo Man-ching and Au Nok-hin – for obstructing Legco staff from carrying out their duties during meetings reviewing the national anthem bill and the joint checkpoint proposal for the city’s cross-border rail link.
He also reminded all Legco members such conduct was illegal and that he would not rule out notifying police if staff members were injured.
In response, Au accused the commission of becoming a political tool of the pro-establishment camp and attacking pan-democrats, while Fan feared Legco would invite police to suppress lawmakers.