Hong Kong lawmakers demand inquiry into city leader

Hong Kong lawmakers demand inquiry into city leader

HONG KONG - Hong Kong's democratic lawmakers called for an official inquiry into the city's embattled leader Wednesday, saying he "has no political integrity" after receiving large undeclared payments from an Australian company.

It came hours after the territory's former governor Chris Patten criticised Hong Kong's lack of leadership in the face of mass democracy protests, which have lasted more than a month.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's approval ratings are at an all-time low as demonstrators continue to occupy key parts of the city.

Adding to his woes, Leung was forced to deny allegations made by an Australian newspaper last month that he had failed to declare HK$50 million (S$8.4 million), which he received from Australian engineering company UGL while in office.

The payments relate to a deal struck in December 2011 - months before Leung took office, but a week after he announced his candidacy - during UGL's purchase of insolvent property services firm DTZ, for which Leung was director and chairman of its regional operations.

Leung's office has said the dealing was "a confidential commercial arrangement and a standard business practice" which did not need to be declared.

But accusations of dishonesty continue to dog him.

"Leung Chun-ying has no political integrity at all... until now he hasn't made it clear why he didn't make a declaration," lawmaker Claudia Mo said Wednesday in the Legislative Council, the city's de facto parliament.

Mo put forward a motion backed by more than 20 other lawmakers for a select committee to investigate. A complaint by members of the city's Democracy Party has already been lodged with the city's corruption bureau.

"Obviously there is something he can't say. Are there details that he doesn't dare come out to talk about? It's not clear to Hong Kong people what he has been doing," Mo said.

Speaking before the UK parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee late Tuesday, Patten - the last British governor of the territory - said that there was a "seriously sad" and "extraordinary lack of leadership" from the chief executive in response to the protests which have gripped the city.

"The worry now is that it's become increasingly difficult for anybody to climb down," he said.

Beijing ruled in August that candidates for the city's next leadership elections in 2017 must be vetted by a loyalist committee in what protesters call "fake democracy".

A small group of activists staged a protest outside China's representative office in Hong Kong Wednesday demanding the release of pro-democracy supporters recently arrested on the mainland.

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