HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s embattled leader faces a “huge integrity problem”, opposition politicians said Thursday as they called on him to explain why he kept large payments from an Australian company secret.
Leung Chun-ying, who is already facing down mass pro-democracy protests that have paralysed parts of the financial hub for more than a week, has yet to comment publicly on the affair.
But his office has said he was under no legal obligation to declare the earnings.
The revelation comes as Chinese president Xi Jinping launches a widespread anti-graft crackdown and austerity drive targeting party officials on the mainland which took control of the former British colony in 1997.
Australia’s Fairfax Media reported Wednesday that Leung received two payments totalling HK$50 million ($6.5 million) 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, where Leung was a director and chairman of its regional operations.
UGL said it would pay Leung over the next two years not to compete with them, and the contract signed by him showed he agreed to act as an “adviser from time to time”.
Opposition lawmakers Thursday expressed their dismay that Leung, who became the city’s chief executive in July 2012, did not declare the payments to the Hong Kong public.
“It boils down to a huge integrity problem,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo told AFP. “Can you imagine Obama being a consultant of some company while being a political leader?”
Another lawmaker, Cyd Ho urged Hong Kong’s parliament to investigate the payments and called on Leung to explain himself publicly.
“He should have cut himself off all business affiliations. This time it’s a very serious case. A statement cannot explain away all the queries from the public,” she said.