In the midst of the negotiations with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, an investigative report that claimed Hong Kong’s chief executive received millions in undisclosed payments from an Australian company has triggered a strong public reaction. The leak of information about the payments suggests Beijing is pressuring Leung Chun-ying to resign, according to one analyst.
On Oct. 8, the Australian Sydney Morning Herald published a report saying a secret contract shows an Australian engineering company UGL gave Leung a $6.5 million payment for a deal in which UGL bought the property company DTZ Holdings. Leung served as a director for DTZ and as chairman of its Asia-Pacific operations.
The payments were made in 2012 and 2013 after Leung became the chief executive of Hong Kong. UGL also guaranteed to give Leung a $2.4 million bonus. None of these payments were declared by Leung.
The contract was dated Dec. 2, 2011, five days after Leung announced he was a candidate for Hong Kong’s chief executive.
- Nov. 24, 2011, Leung announced he is resigning from DTZ.
- Nov. 27, 2011, Leung formally became a candidate for chief executive, which was announced on the 28th.
- Dec. 2, 2011, Leung signed a secret contract with UGL promising him millions to be paid in 2012 and 2013.
- Dec. 4, 2011, Leung’s resignation from DTZ took effect, the same day UGL bought DTZ.
- March 25, 2012, Leung elected chief executive of Hong Kong.
- December 2012, Leung received first installment from UGL.
The Sydney Morning Herald report was done by three authors, after receiving a copy of the secret contract from an anonymous source on Oct. 5, according to Voice of America. The paper’s parent company, Fairfax Media, refused to reveal the identity of the source.
One of the authors, John Garnaut, an Asia-Pacific editor with the Sydney Morning Herald, told VOA that the chief executive office in Hong Kong responded with threats, when they tried to confirm the payments with the office.
“As you can imagine, we had to escalate our questions until we got some pretty fiery legal letters from his office, acknowledging receipt [of those questions] and threatening to take us to court if we publish anything,” Garnaut said. “In that process, we confirmed that he did receive the payments.”
Leung Chun-ying released a statement on Thursday claiming that there was no requirement for him to declare the payments from UGL because they were for previous work before he served as chief executive, not for future work.
When DTZ was sold it was insolvent, and, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the value of DTZ to UGL depended on the contacts Leung had in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Since Occupy Central started on Sept. 28, there have been loud calls from the protesters for Leung’s resignation.
Although Leung refused to resign last week, the suddenly breaking scandal perhaps adds force to the calls for him to step down.
Hong Kong Legislative Council member Sin Chung-kai told Epoch Times several possibilities of who could be behind the leak of the financial details.
“It’s possible that his (Leung’s) political enemy released the information. It’s also possible that Beijing wants to deal with him and released some information to force him to step down. That wouldn’t be strange either… Only some confidential people are able to get those materials,” Sin said.
Hongkongers have long believed Leung is an underground member of the Chinese Communist Party. He is known to have close ties with the faction of former CCP leader Jiang Zemin. Jiang’s faction has interfered with current Chinese leader Xi Jinping since Xi took power.
Washington, D.C.-based China expert Shi Cangshan suspects the leak of the contract was arranged by high-level CCP authorities.
Shi said that, on the one hand, Leung’s stepping down would be the lowest cost way to solve the conflict between the government and Hong Kong people.
Shi said that, on the other hand, Beijing won’t let Leung step down during the protesters’ civil disobedience.
“Such way [citizen disobedience] to make Leung to step down will lead to a crisis of the CCP regime, because there have been constant protests in different provinces and cities in mainland China,” Mr. Shi said.
With additional research and translation by Lu Chen